Highlanders sign Crusaders flyhalf
TRANSFER NEWS: The Highlanders have recruited four players for the 2020 season.
They are Mitchell Hunt, Jona Nareki, Ngane Punivai and Connor Garden-Bachop
Hunt an experienced player with 42 Super games to his name can play fullback or flyhalf while the other three have all shown considerable promise at a young age and now have the opportunity to press their claims at Super Rugby level.
In 2015, Hunt (24) a product of Nelson College, moved north to study engineering at the University of Auckland where he was selected, alongside current All Blacks Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and George Bridge for the NZ Under-20 World Championship team which won the title in Italy.
He made his debut for the Auckland team in the same year. In 2016 he was selected in the Crusaders squad and shifted back to the Tasman region for the NPC that season.
“I’m excited to be joining the Highlanders family, I’ve had a fantastic four years with the Crusaders and I’m very thankful for the opportunities they gave me,” said Hunt.
“I can’t wait to get to work with my new teammates, coaches and supporters of the Highlanders. I’m excited to learn, work hard and play for a great club.”
Otago wing Jona Nareki (21), a member of the 2017 world champion winning NZ U20 team, his speed and agility have seen him selected in the All Blacks Sevens squad over the last two years, as well as playing 24 games for Otago. He was a part of the Ranfurly Shield winning team in 2018 and is recognised as a good finisher with an eye for the tryline. Already popular with the local Otago fans he is excited about the chance to play at home in a Highlanders jersey.
“I’m extremely excited and it’s a dream come true to be joining the Highlanders family and to play at Forsyth Barr Stadium in front of our home fans,” said Nareki.
Connor Garden-Bachop (20) already has strong links to the region with his father former All Black Stephen Bachop having played for Otago between 1992-1996.
His older brother Jackson is currently with the Hurricane and at just 20 years of age he has already played for Canterbury and Wellington in the Mitre 10 premiership.
A strongly built wing he played his schoolboy rugby in Wellington for Scots College with current Highlanders midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
“Beyond grateful for this opportunity, it’s awesome to be given a chance to follow in my old man’s footsteps and join this awesome franchise. I’m so thankful and blessed for everyone who has helped me on my journey so far and have endless love for my friends and family for making all the hard work worthwhil,” said Garden-Bachop.
Ngane Punivai (20) was the captain of the Reuben Thorne coached Christ College First XV in 2016 and a member of the NZ Secondary Schools team.
The following year he was selected for the New Zealand Under-20s in the Oceania Rugby Championship, he was then called in to the Under-20s Junior World Championship squad, playing in the third/fourth playoff. A big strong ball carrier with a wide range of skills he can play in the centres or on the wing.
“Really excited to be joining the Highlanders and am looking forward to taking the next step in my rugby journey down South. Looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Punivai.
Head coach Aaron Mauger views the players as vital ingredient for his team moving forward
“All of these players have the potential to be very exciting players for the club going forward, they all have speed and deception and you need to have players with X – factor in any squad if you are going to do well in Super Rugby,” Mauger added.