Lentjes to lead Highlanders in 2020

New Highlanders captain James Lentjes (right) and lock Jack Whetton at training at Logan Park...
New Highlanders captain James Lentjes (right) and lock Jack Whetton at training at Logan Park yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
It has been a big few weeks for James Lentjes.

The openside flanker got married a few weeks ago, and yesterday he was confirmed as the Highlanders captain for next season.

The 28-year-old said he took a while to think about accepting the captaincy and spoke to some senior players to gauge their support before accepting the job.

Lentjes said the captaincy would help him grow and learn more about himself. He had plenty of skippers to learn from.

"I have thought about the leaders I had since I first got here. There was so many attributes about them that I liked. Nasi [Manu] was a guy that you just wanted to go into battle with, put your body on the line. Bender [Ben Smith] could do freak things that inspired his team-mates.

"Lukey [Whitelock] was always very physical and calm. So if I can pack those attributes together and carry that baton on, that would be a pretty good way to go."

He took a couple of weeks to decide on the new role.

"It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to make sure the boys around me were happy for me to do it. Once I had sorted those things out I rang Azza [coach Aaron Mauger] back and he was obviously pretty excited I wanted to do it."

The senior players gave him full support. Halfback Aaron Smith and hooker Ash Dixon would be vice-captains and Lentjes is unlikely to play all games in the season.

It is a new era for the Highlanders with a raft of players leaving and new players coming in.

Lentjes said the positive of that was getting all the players together early and preseason was going well. There was no mucking round with having a load of All Blacks joining the side just before the competition started.

Lentjes, who has signed with the franchise for another couple of years, made his debut for the Highlanders in 2015, an injury replacement in preseason who stayed with the team and started in the final that year.

The previous year, he had come to Dunedin from Christchurch after an education at St Bede’s College and the University of Canterbury, where he gained a bachelor of science, in geography and geology.

He had captained teams at St Bede’s, led the Taieri club and Otago a few times, and also captained Leeston under-13s — but that was because his dad was the coach, he said.

"Obviously, captaining the Highlanders will be a big step up in terms of intensity."

He has played 37 games for the Highlanders.

Lentjes married Alice (nee Wisker) in Wanaka last month. The couple have been together since Christchurch days.

"She has been awesome. And the fact she moved down here that meant I could stay down here and give it a good crack.

"Now we have been here for so long, and we love it so much, we don’t know whether we will go back when I finish playing."

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