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Highlanders Confirm Trio of Signings

The Highlanders have announced the arrival of three new players following the departure of a host of key men at the end of last season

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The Highlanders have confirmed the signings of Otago trio Michael Collins, Vilimoni Koroi and Sione Misiloi ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Collins, who was the Otago captain, and Misiloi have penned one-year contracts with the New Zealand based franchise.

However, Koroi, has signed a three-year deal which will see him miss the majority of next season so to allow him to be in selection contention for the All Blacks Sevens at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Koroi is probably the most exciting of the three to have arrived as he can cover fly-half, wing and full-back and at only 21 will continue to grow as a player.

The other exciting prospect for the Highlanders is that they have already signed another All Blacks youngster in Scott Gregory, who is a blossoming full-back that has lit up the stage at underage levels.

The thought of Gregory and Koroi linking up is great but both are trying to get into that Sevens team and will be out of selection contention next season.

As well as that trio and Gregory the Highlanders have also signed Connor Garden-Bachop, Mitch Hunt, Jona Nakeri and Ngane Punivai in what has been an eventful transfer period so far.

However, the signings were vital following the departure of 12 key players including the likes of Jackson Hemopo, Matt Faddes, Ben Smith, Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock.

Although it might take a bit of time to get the squad together the new signings are promising for the franchise’s future.

Super Rugby

Hooper Makes Surprise Waratah’s Decision

Wallabies star Michael Hooper has made a big call ahead of the start of the new Super Rugby season with the Waratahs

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Waratahs and Wallabies ace Michael Hooper has confirmed that he has stepped down as captain of the Super Rugby franchise ahead of the new season.

Hooper has been the main man of the side for the past four seasons, but has chosen to step aside in what is a surprise to many in the rugby community admitting that he has been thinking about the situation for a long as the role was taking its toll on him. 

“Doing both roles (captaining the Waratahs and the Wallabies) for some time it would be remiss of me to say it doesn’t have a taxing effect. There’s much more than just running out on the park, leading the team out on the weekend. There’s performances of teams that weigh into it, there’s the media, all my friends. Having to speak every week is tough and trying to get the message right and represent the team as best as possible. A big part of it is I’ve got another four years here and I want to make that four years really special and take my personal game and leadership to another level,” he said. 

With Hooper stepping down it has been announced that fellow Wallaby Rob Simmons will take up the role for the upcoming season with Kurtley Beale taking the position of vice-captain. 

However, despite stepping away from the Waratah’s captaincy the back-rower has not shut down the possibility of staying on as Wallabies captain having held the role since 2017. 

“That’s a fair way away, but my thoughts around that have not changed. I still think I’ve got a lot of growing in myself, my gameplay and my captaincy. Those are conversations that (new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie) and myself will be having I’m sure in the future,” he added. 

It is a surprise, but if leaving the role does ease the pressure on him fans will only wonder what it would be like for him to get even better. 

However, Simmons first outing as new captain is by no means easy as the brings his Tahs side to the reigning three-time champions the Crusaders for their opening game of the new campaign next weekend.

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Premiership

Rugby Australia Confirm Skelton Stance

With the Saracens team set to be torn apart, Rugby Australia have announced their intentions regarding one of the side’s key men

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Rugby Australia have confirmed they will be trying to sign up Saracens star Will Skelton following the club’s salary cap scandal.

Skelton has been away from Australia since 2016 following a stint with the Waratahs, where he won the Super Rugby title in 2014. However, in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup last year approaches were made for the massive lock in a bid for him to be eligible for the tournament. 

Those moves came to no avail, but now Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told The Australian that they will go all out to tempt Skelton back to his homeland. 

“I can’t see them keeping anywhere near that team together and because he [Skelton] is not ­English, he will be one of the first under the spotlight. We have spoken to his agent, and we are going to go heavy this week. We are in a realistic chance at some stage to bring him back, if he wants to come back. He’s going to make a decision on what he is doing this for. Is it money, or is it career? So he has to make that clear to us. For us, we won’t compete for the money. We’ll make a good offer. But I only want guys in the country who want to make a difference. He has apparently been saying the right things but, to be fair, he was always just trying to honour his contract,” he said. 

If he returns to Australia it is believed he could go back to the Waratahs, but there is also rumours that the Rebels or the Brumbies could try and get him onto their books. 

Meanwhile, with a big salary and being unable to play for England, it seems a logical move for Saracens to try and offload the 27-year-old. 

Already they have lost Liam Williams to the Scarlets and it is believed that George Kruis will depart for Japan come the end of the current campaign. While question marks remain over a host of star names including Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje

However, while those players more than likely would seek a move to a club in England, Skelton will have his options and a move back to Australia would be a huge boost for the national side as they head into a new era under Dave Rennie.

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Super Rugby

Kolisi Hoping for Menality Shift in SA’s Super Rugby Sides

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi is predicting a better season for the South African based Super Rugby sides following the country’s recent Rugby World Cup win

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Springboks captain Siya Kolisi is hoping that South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win last year will have a positive effect on the country’s Super Rugby teams this season.

South Africa have four representatives in the competition in Kolisi’s Stormers side, the Lions, Sharks and Bulls, but they have failed to claim a title between them in 10 years and they have failed to produce results against the New Zealand-based sides. 

However, on the international stage things seem to have changed and Kolisi believes the mental effect of winning the World Cup could change things at club-level. 

“All these games are about mentality. You want to go there and say you’re going to win all the games, I think that should be the attitude. Us winning that game in Wellington gave us that mentality. When we go on tour, we want to win every game. We don’t want to aim for this one or that one. In most of the teams I’ve played for in the past, you already lose before you get off the plane because you’re choosing which games you’re going to win,” he said while speaking to Sport24. 

South Africa’s World Cup glory saw them match the All Blacks on three Webb Ellis Cups overall, despite playing in a tournament less. 

That win came on the back of the Boks winning 36-34 in Wellington in 2018, which clearly had a positive effect on the side as they came back to snatch a 16-16 draw a year on with only seconds remaining away to them again. 

The draw last year helped them claim a Rugby Championship title, but it showed how much the win the previous year has changed the squad’s attitude towards facing their New Zealand counterparts away from home

Although the 28-year-old has always put his all into every game, but he thinks that now others may have further motivation when against the New Zealand sides. 

“I have played against New Zealand teams many times and they have always pitched up and I don’t think much is going to change there. I think what will motivate the guys to play is that some have left so there are open spaces, and everyone will want to perform,” he added. 

Kolisi and his Stormers side are currently getting ready to take on the Hurricanes in the opening round of this year’s competition on February 1st, with the Stormers at home, but it will be interesting to see if there is a change in attitude when they head to New Zealand throughout the season.

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