The Higlanders have named their Super Rugby squad for the 2012 Super Rugby season with new signings such as Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear.
The stand out name in the Highlanders squad is that of England World Cup loose forward James Haskell who is the surprise player for the Highlanders.
Haskell is one of 28 new names included in the five New Zealand franchises announced on Wednesday, less than a week after the Highlanders said he was unlikely to join them.
The 26-year-old had expressed an interest in playing Super 15 rugby, but Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said as recently as last Friday that he was "not on the list of available players at the moment so we can't pick him".
But the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) confirmed Wednesday that Haskell was one of five overseas players who appeared in the World Cup last month to take up places in New Zealand Super 15 sides for next year.
Haskell, who can play in all three loose forward positions, will link up with the Highlanders after completing a spell with the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, and at the end of the Super season he will rejoin the London Wasps.
Being able to secure the services of the 42-Test veteran was a "sign of the times", Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph told Fairfax Media.
"It's my job to pick the best players available in the world now, not just Otago."