Rodney So'oialo has stepped aside as Hurricanes captain to focus on getting his body and game in shape for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Hooker Andrew Hore will lead the Hurricanes in this year's Super 14. So'oialo handed over the skipper's role after 49 matches at the helm since taking over from Tana Umaga in 2006.
So'oialo said yesterday that he had decided early in the new year that he needed to focus more on his core role as a player if he wanted to produce his best rugby at all levels.
"I want to really concentrate on my preparation and to be the best I can at what I do," he said.
"I want to offer the Hurricanes and the franchise the best I have and to do that I need to really focus on getting my body right.
"It was tough, but then again you have to make these decisions to benefit the team and yourself really."
The 30-year-old has been a Hurricanes star since his debut in 2001.
However, he struggled with a neck injury during the final stages of last season, with his body rebelling against one of the country's heaviest playing loads of the past few years.
The 62-test veteran was surpassed by Kieran Read as the All Blacks' test No8 during last year's end-of-year tour and has clearly taken stock.
It will not be a decision So'oialo took lightly because he considered the captaincy a huge honour, and it highlights his desire to win back his test jersey this year.
"It's an investment really – for the future," he said.
"I want to try and continue to contribute my all to the Hurricanes and to the All Blacks for the next two years."
Surprisingly, it will be the first side Hore has captained in his long first-class career, but after 47 tests for the All Blacks he is clearly not fazed by the challenge.
"I captained the Otago development side for a bit, but nothing too serious really," he said.
"But I've been in a few leadership groups as well though and there's a lot of the same guys around here too. It's going to be huge, I'm looking forward to it.
"Hopefully, my game grows from it.
"I'll just try to say it how I saw it and get going from there. There won't be any poetry coming out of me."
Hore admitted that he was surprised to learn So'oialo would not be carrying on when he was told last week, but had quickly warmed to the idea of leading the side.
"I did expect him to carry on, but it's a mark of the man really that he's done what he thinks is best for the team," he said.
"We had a yak with the leaders and the senior players about a week ago and came up with a few ideas.
"I've been here for a while, but I'm coming to training with a bit more on my mind, which gets you thinking and I think that's quite good for me as well."
Hore's first assignment as captain will be Friday's pre-season match against the Brumbies at Porirua.
Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper paid tribute to So'oialo's contribution as captain and said it was a mark of his character that he had stepped aside with the team's best interests at heart.