The close relationship between the Blues and the Honda Heat club has led to double international Matt Duffie signing with the Japanese side.
Duffie and his family will join the Honda club, the first player to transfer between the two clubs since the Blues began a coaching and performance relationship.
The 29-year-old was contracted out of Saint Kentigern College in Auckland to NRL giants, the Melbourne Storm in 2008, and selected for the New Zealand team for the Anzac Test against Australia in 2011.
He made 61 appearances for the Storm through to 2015 before returning to rugby back home with the Blues and North Harbour in 2016.
He was part of the Blues side that beat the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and went on the All Black Northern Tour that year, making his debut off the bench against the Barbarians and scored a try against a French XV selection.
Duffie will play his 55th game for the Blues against the Highlanders on Sunday at fullback.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said Duffie will be an asset to Honda HEAT.
“Duff is an outstanding professional footballer in every sense both on and off the grass and has made a huge contribution to us as a player and as a person. We wish him and his family well and I am sure he will add significantly to Honda’s development.
“He is an excellent athlete, outstanding in the air, with a big boot. He will no doubt provide a real insight into what it takes to be a successful professional footballer.
“We would hope that the development as a player and person at the Blues will stand him in good stead for the next journey in his rugby career.”
Duffie said he and his family are looking forward to the experience of a new culture.
“I look forward to new challenges and embracing a new culture. Also, I am honoured to be the first player to transfer between both teams.
“I have spent some time with Honda over the last few years which has allowed me to forge some relationships with players and staff which will be of advantage to the club and myself.”