Black to Blues, and West off to Canes
Otere Black and Ihaia West are swapping jerseys for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
Hurricanes first five-eighth Black is heading to the Blues, his move north coinciding with the departure of the Blues’ current No 10 options, West and Piers Francis.
Hawke’s Bay first-five-eighth West will replace Black at the Hurricanes while Francis, who made his debut for England recently, is returning home to play for Northampton Saints.
Rising young star Bryn Gatland has also signed with the Blues.
A New Zealand Under-20 and New Zealand Maori representative, West played 43 games for the Blues and amassed 341 points.
Black, 22, who played for the New Zealand Maori and New Zealand Under-20s, has been part of the Hurricanes for two years as backup to Beauden Barrett.
Gatland, also 22, was a key part of North Harbour’s success in the Mitre 10 Cup and played four times for the Blues as a replacement this season. He also played for the NZ Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener against the British and Irish Lions.
Black has signed until 2019 and Gatland for one year.
Blues head coach Tana Umaga said the acquisition of two young players to partner outstanding prospect Stephen Perofeta was exciting for the club.
‘‘Otere is a young player of considerable talent. I had the pleasure of coaching him with the New Zealand Under-20s at the World Cup where he played a big part in that win,’’ Umaga said.
‘‘He is an accomplished firstfive and will be a valuable addition to our young group of first-fives.
‘‘Bryn impressed us when he came into the Blues this year with his ability and a level of maturity beyond his years. He showed with his performance against the Lions that he can rise to the big occasion.’’
Black, who has played 31 times for Manawatu and has 17 caps for the Hurricanes, has decided to move to the Blues to further his career opportunities.
‘‘It was a hard decision for me to decide to leave the Hurricanes,’’ Black said.
‘‘The team has been a big part of my life and has shaped me to be who I am today as a player. I owe the coaching group, the players and the staff a great deal.
‘‘I am excited about the chance to be part of such an exciting playing group at the Blues and I am looking forward to working with Tana again.
‘‘There are no guarantees but I hope to make the Blues 10 jumper my own and I am looking forward to all the challenges that come with that.’’
After four seasons with the Blues, West will bring considerable experience to the Hurricanes where he will be coached by his former New Zealand Under-20s coach Chris Boyd.
‘‘I have decided it’s time for a new challenge and thanks to the Hurricanes management I have the opportunity to be involved with a strong and successful team,’’ West said. ‘‘I am looking forward to joining the Hurricanes environment and playing for a team that is close to me, being from Hawke’s Bay.
‘‘I’ve enjoyed my time with the Blues and want to thank the boys and the coaches for the experiences and making my time there enjoyable.’’
Ihaia West, left, is moving closer to home as he moves from the Blues to the Hurricanes. Above, Otere Black is heading the other way.