Blues raiding the Crusaders' resources
SPOTLIGHT: After years of top local products slipping through the Blues’ fingers and heading elsewhere to play their Super Rugby, the Auckland franchise is finally starting to make in-roads at other franchises.
In 2020, they picked up Taine Plumtree from Wellington, Sam Darry from Canterbury and Jacob Ratumaitavuku-Kneepkens from Taranaki – three provinces tied to other Super Rugby sides.
Proven performers Nepo Laulala, Dillon Hunt and Bryce Heem also headed to the Blues, despite playing their formative years for other franchises.
Ahead of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, they’ve already made one significant pick-up in the form of German-born Tasman flank Anton Segner – the second player in as many years to be plucked straight out of the Crusaders academy, following Darry’s shift for 2021.
With so much talent in the Crusaders region, chief executive Colin Mansbridge has acknowledged that the team will always struggle to hold onto all of their up-and-coming talent.
“One of the challenges for us is we’d like to keep everybody, but we can’t keep them all,” Mansbridge told Stuff.
“This will happen to us again next year, it will happen again the year after, and it will happen again the year after that.”
The Crusaders will be without loose forwards Tom Sanders and Whetukamokamo Douglas next year, but the addition of Argentina international Pablo Matera will offset those losses, joining the likes of Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Sione Havili Talitui and Cullen Grace at the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.
There’s likely room for another loosie or two in Christchurch and despite Segner looming as a potentially handy pick-up, the likes of Liam Allen, Corey Kellow and Dom Gardiner could all slot into an ‘apprentice’ role at a side that’s already well served in the back row.
After naming just five new players at the beginning of the season gone, there’ll be considerably more movement in the Crusaders ranks for next year.
Already confirmed to be heading away from the region are Michael Alaalatoa (Leinster), Isi Tuungafasi, Ereatara Enari (both Moana Pasifika), Andrew Makalio (Highlanders), Douglas, Sanders, Brett Cameron (all Japan), Manasa Mataele (Western Force) and Josh McKay (Glasgow).
Luke Romano is also set to be announced as another key departure for the Crusaders – and another signing for the Blues – in the coming days.
Meanwhile, just three signings have been confirmed for the 2022 season to date – Matera, halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and wing Kini Naholo – while Simon Hickey is set to take Cameron’s place as the third flyhalf in the squad.
That still leaves room for a handful more players to put pen to paper, even without any further departures.
The six New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific squads are set to be officially announced on November 22.
Sources: Stuff & RugbyPass