A big few weeks just got bigger for Otere Black.
The 20-year-old, who guided New Zealand to the World Under 20 Championship just 17 days ago, and flies out to Fiji today with the Maori All Blacks, has inked a two-year deal with the Hurricanes.
Black impressed for the Hurricanes, in his limited on-field time, and with the Under 20s, and has leapfrogged the 2014 incumbent Maori first-five Ihaia West, whose rugby, if not his sharp goalkicking, has stagnated at the Blues.
Black was composed in general play and accurate off the tee for the Under 20s, as he was with the Manawatu Turbos in the 2014 ITM Cup.
"It was a long process, but I'm happy to get it out of the way and look forward to the next two years. There were a few offers but I took my time and talked to a lot of people that I trusted. It was up to me in the end as to where I felt most comfortable and the Hurricanes is the best place for me at the moment," said Black, who hinted he was in demand by the other New Zealand franchises.
For those who wonder why Black is being so patient when there is a likelihood he could start at perhaps two other Kiwi franchises in 2016, consider that there is a strong chance that Hurricanes first-choice pivot Beauden Barrett will likely miss a large chunk of next year's campaign should he play for the All Black Sevens side in pursuit of gold at Rio.
"It was in the back of my mind, but at the end of my contract I'll be still only 22, still a baby. I'll be more developed physically by then."
Black was not used in the Super Rugby playoffs, with Barrett back in the fold and James Marshall acting as cover.
Now, he prepares to face Fiji in Suva on Saturday, before the New Zealand Barbarians at Eden Park on July 18.
"The Maori All Blacks were a big goal of mine. I'm a Maori boy and was brought up around the Maori culture. It was my main goal, but the 20s were big as well, and it was awesome bringing back that trophy after so long. It's been a good ride so far."
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd, who also confirmed the signing of Blues midfielder Pita Ahki for 2016, did not need to be convinced of Black's worth.
"Otere steered the New Zealand Under 20s to their first finals victory in four years, he played a significant part in Manawatu's ITM Cup championship and promotion to the premiership, and he'll work in tandem with Beauden over the next couple of years to hopefully do the same for our club," said Boyd.