Seven Blues players, with 218 Super caps between them, will extend their stay at the Auckland Blues.
The ‘Super Seven’ comprise James Parsons, TJ Faiane, Sione Mafileo, Otere Black, Tom Robinson and Stephen
“This is a core group of key players who are an important cog to the Blues wheel both on and off the field,” said Tony Hanks, Blues General Manager High Performance.
“Five of them are players that are born and bred in our region and have come through our system at the Blues. They have been committed to our Blues family since they were age group players and aspired to be part of a successful Blues club. “
“With the retention of top players always challenging in New Zealand, the commitment of this core group, along with the recent extensions of Patrick Tuipulotu and Dalton Papalii, is a significant statement to the commitment, motivation and ambition of our current group, both this year and in the seasons to come,” said Hanks.
Parsons, who has played 98 games for the Blues, was keen to continue his long and storied career with the club.
“He is getter better with experience and his form and leadership make him an important player to re-sign when players of his age are departing New Zealand. Retaining experience is critical to our development and James is a thorough professional who is a real role model for our game,” said forwards coach Tom Coventry.
His fellow Harbour front rower, Mafileo has played 40 times for the Blues and started five times this year.
“After a strong apprenticeship, Sione is now delivering at a high standard game-in game-out and has become a regular starter amongst an excellent group of props. The best is still ahead of him,” said Coventry.
Faiane, who was sidelined for the first two years of his professional carer with injury, captained Auckland to its Mitre-10 Cup success and has carried on that outstanding form to date this season.
“TJ has taken his game to a new level in Investec Super Rugby, and is working well alongside Ma’a and Sonny in the midfield. His work ethic in training is excellent and he is a key leader in our club,” said coach Leon MacDonald.
Robinson has been one of the new starts this season, who like Faiane has had two seasons thwarted by injury before producing standout form for Northland to earn his Super opportunity.
“Tom has been part of the Blues development and has taken his chances a non-stop aggressive approach whether it be at training or in games. His attitude is outstanding and we are thrilled he will be staying with us,” said Coventry.
Black and Perofeta, talented young first-fives, have both signed to stay at the club and both have had to overcome long term injuries. Black, who missed last Super season, has been an influential guiding light in the team this year, while Perofeta, who impressed last year, will miss much of this season with a pec muscle injury.
“Otere is a calm and decisive head on young shoulders who is steering us around the park with maturity beyond his years while Stephen remains an important part of our squad and we look forward to having him back on the playing roster. It is really encouraging with two players of real talent who play in the same position deciding to continue on with our club,” said MacDonald.
Clarke, who has just turned 20, has already shown he has a massive future in Super Rugby. After a transition year with the All Black Sevens, New Zealand U20s and Mitre-10 Cup, Clarke starred in pre-season before a serious knee injury. He returned with an impressive performance and try against the Waratahs.
“Caleb is a product of our development pathway and while he is still just 20, he has immense talent and is a tremendous and humble young man who is a real contributor to our club,” said MacDonald.
“Overall while our focus is firmly fixed on the second half of the season, it is great to know we have a significant core group of players staying with us for the next two years at least.”
Press Release from Auckland Blues
Springbok Lock Heading Home After Six Years in France
Following a six-year stint in France one Springbok is heading back to his old stomping ground
The 17-cap Springbok, who made his last international appearance in 2013 before his move, is a welcome addition to the Bulls squad following the departures of Lodewyk de Jager and RG Snyman to Sale Sharks and Honda Heat respectively.
Kruger took to social media to confirm his return and is excited to be back.
“Hi Bulls family. Juandre Kruger here. It has been a while since I addressed you guys. For those who haven’t heard I am super excited to announce that I am heading back to my old stomping ground, Loftus. I have just done a deal with the Bulls and I will be joining the boys in December later this year. I am looking forward to making you proud. I’ll check you in a few months,” he said.
The 33-year-old will bring plenty of experience having previously played for the Bulls between 2008 and 2013 before heading to Racing 92 where he stayed for three-years, winning the Top 14 in his final year. He then moved on to Toulon whom he is leaving to re-join the Bulls.
Kruger’s signing is the second of an impressive week for the Bulls after they announced the arrival of Scottish international Josh Strauss earlier this week. He will link-up with the squad following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wallabies Powerhouse Set for European Switch
One of Australia’s hookers seems set for a move to Europe next season according to reports
The report claims that the Waratahs player, who is in the Wallabies Rugby Championship squad for their upcoming campaign, has burnt his bargaining bridges with Rugby Australia following a drink-driving incident earlier this year.
That issue resulted in Latu pleading guilty to the charges and being handed suspensions both on and off the pitch. He received a four-match suspension and a $5,000 fine from Rugby Australia.
However, on the pitch Latu has been in good form and it is thought to be wanted by Heyneke Meyer at Stade Francais, who already have four Aussies in his squad in Paul Alo-Emile, Sefa Naivalu, Hughe Pyle and Tala Gray.
The Top 14 side have got three hookers on their books in Laurent Panis, Remi Bonfils and Lucas Da Silva, but the arrival of Latu would most likely become the first-choice hooker if he arrived.
Ironically if the move does come to be the 26-year-old would be joining a club that his current Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika used to manage.
Whatever happens, Latu will more than likely be heading to the World Cup in Japan with his country meaning any move away from the Waratahs would occur in November once the tournament concludes.
Scottish Star Signs for the Bulls
One of Scotland’s key back-rowers has left his contract a year early to join the Bulls
The 32-year-old has been at the English club for two-years since joining from Glasgow Warriors, with Sale agreeing to let him leave early having signed Jean-Luc, Daniel du Preez and Mark Wilson this summer.
He had been in talks with the Warriors about a return, as well as receiving a lot of attention from French Top 14 sides, but chose the Bulls.
By signing for the Bulls, Strauss will return to his country of birth, but is far more associated with Scotland having qualified for their national side in 2015.
He made his debut for the Scots in the 2015 World Cup and has gone on to gain 22-caps for them since.
Strauss is included in Scotland’s 44-man World Cup training squad by head coach Gregor Townsend and played in all five of Scotland’s Six Nations fixtures earlier this year.
However, there is no guarantee that he will make the tournament in Japan as he faces huge competition for a place on the plane with Ryan Wilson, Matt Fagerson, Magnus Bradbury, Sam Skinner and Blade Thomson are all vying for places.
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