Jamie Joseph will step down as Wellington Lions coach to take on the Highlanders in the Super 15 next season, the New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed on Friday.
Joseph will remain with Wellington's ITM Cup squad until the end of August.
A new assistant coach for the Highlanders - widely tipped to be Southland co-coach Simon Culhane - will be announced in the next week.
Joseph is looking forward to the new challenge.
"The Highlanders are an exciting team with a great mix of experience and plenty of new potential. This is a great opportunity for me and one I am looking forward to," he said.
The appointment means Glenn Moore has been dumped after two seasons in charge of the struggling southern franchise.
Joseph's strong affiliation with the south includes a provincial rugby career for Otago where he played 68 games as a lock and then a loose-forward until 1995.
The 40-year-old former All Black led Wellington to consecutive NPC finals in 2008 and 2009. He also won the Ranfurly Shield from Auckland in 2008, holding it for five defences.
This year, he coached the New Zealand Maori team in its centenary year with assistant coach Daryl Gibson, leading the team to a clean sweep over the New Zealand Barbarians, Ireland and England in the Centenary Series.