The Highlanders have signed four young players with an eye to the future.
Canterbury wing Telusa Veainu, who scored a try against Southland in the recent Ranfurly Shield game, Stags No8 Elliot Dixon, Wellington first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga and Taranaki fullback Kurt Baker, as The Southland Times revealed last week, have all been signed on two-year deals.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said it was vital to have a mix of experience and youth in his 32-strong squad. "... we want to make sure we have some success early on, but the following year that we are in good stead."
In the past, players like Veainu, Sopoaga and Baker would have been locked up by their home unions and would have been available to the Highlanders only if they were put into the draft, Joseph said.
With 28 players to be confirmed on Monday, Joseph said he was happy with the way the Highlanders were shaping up.
The team would have a big, experienced forward pack and a quality axis, with Adam Thomson an option at No8, halfback Jimmy Cowan and Colin Slade at first five-eighth.
If there was a concern it was a traditional one of the Highlanders, the outsides. However, Joseph believed that problem was being solved with the likes of James Paterson, Veainu and Baker.
Joseph said several Highlanders players, including the likes of Slade, Thomson and Jamie Mackintosh, would be desperate next year to force their way into World Cup reckoning.
Along with Thomson, Nasi Manu would be another loose forward option, while The Southland Times understands Taranaki's Mahonri Schwalger and Auckland's Ash Dixon will be the back-up hookers to Jason Rutledge.