NZ Rugby World
GAME CHANGERS SIGNINGS
THERE WASN’T A HUGE AMOUNT OF HUMAN MOVEMENT GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF 2020 BUT A FEW PLAYERS HAVE COME HOME FROM EUROPE AND JAPAN AND A FEW OTHERS HAVE SWITCHED CLUBS.
01 LIAM SQUIRE NTT TO HIGHLANDERS
We all know how good Liam Squire can be and how he was tracking before he was bashed up by injury in 2018 and then sent into a mental blackspot as a result.
He’s had almost two years off rugby and multiple operations to fix his various broken parts. He says he’s eager and hungry to play at the highest level again and the local competition will suit him. It will mean less travel and more opportunity to play big, intense games.
02 JULIAN SAVEA TOULON TO HURRICANES
Who knows whether Julian Savea can still play at this level, but it will be interesting finding out.
The Hurricanes think he’s still got it and he certainly looks fit and dynamic. He’s happy playing in the midfield too so the option is there to use him in a bash and crash capacity to get over the gainline in tight games.
At his best he was brilliant and there seems no reason why he can’t find that same form again. He’s only 29 and the sense of having a second chance should provide plenty of motivation.
03 NEPO LAULALA CHIEFS TO BLUES
Nepo Laulala has slowly established himself as the best tight head in the country. He’s consistent in all the core parts of his job and a quiet driver of standards.
He’ll give the Blues scrum more grunt and the ability to work in tandem with Ofa Tuungafasi. The Blues want an element of intimidation in their pack and Laulala helps them achieve that.
04 SOLOMON ALAIMALO CHIEFS TO HIGHLANDERS
This guy was getting close to All Blacks selection in the last World Cup cycle and then went off the ball a little bit as injuries hit and the Chiefs changed coaches.
He’s rangy and good in the air. Equally at home at wing or fullback and quick enough to score tries form long distance.
A fresh start my rekindle his best form and playing on top of the ground at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium could be the making of him.
The Blues have an abundance of back row riches but they are all mostly big, ball carriers and thumping tacklers. Which is great. But they needed something different in their mix which is why they have brought Dillon Hunt home.
He’s a smaller, more dynamic athlete who can play as a genuine fetcher and linkman which means the Blues will have options about how they set up their bench or tactically operate.
06 KAZUKI HIMENO TOYOTA VERBLITZ TO HIGHLANDERS
Kazuki Himeno was one of the most consistent performers for Japan at the World Cup and he’ll bring rugby smarts and high energy to the Highlanders.
Tony Brown knows him well having worked with Japan and he’ll know how to get the best out of him. Should enable the Highlanders to play with real speed with a it of trickery thrown in.
07 SAM DARRY CANTERBURY TO BLUES
The degree of effort the Crusaders made to persuade Sam Darry to stay in Christchurch is a sign the Blues have made a good purchase.
They needed another athletic, aerial lock to play alongside the bruising Patrick Tuipulotu and in Darry they have found one.
He’s agile, mobile and good at getting off the ground. He’s also backed himself to make an impact at the Blues and that’s the sort of attitude the club needs.
08 JONAH LOWE HURRICANES TO CHIEFS
There was a lot of talk and expectation about Jonah Lowe when he was at King’s College in Auckland. He hasn’t kicked on the way everyone expected but there have been a few players like that in the past – guys who starred at school and then struggled to make the transition to the professional ranks.
A change of club could be all he needs to ignite an obviously powerful running game and find his confidence.
Lowe can play. He just needs a chance to prove it.
09 SIMON HICKEY EDINBURGH TO HURRICANES
Simon Hickey is not going to set the world on fire, but he will bring a lot of experience and a lot of good habits to the Hurricanes.
He’s the sort of professional the club needs to set standards and keep everyone on track. He’s also a useful operator – a good, solid player to bring off the bench or cover for injury in a key position.
10 LOLAGI VISINIA HAWKE’S BAY TO HURRICANES
It was a long time ago now, but Lolagi Visinia was once the hottest property in Auckland schoolboy rugby. He was the player everyone said was the future.
It turned out not to be true. Too much pressure and expectation meant he never delivered when he was with the Blues but he’s a talent certainly and maybe this late career opportunity will be the spark he needs to show what he is all about.