Highlanders lock in four key signings for 2014

Jul 12 • General News, Super Rugby, Super Rugby News • 2705 Views • Comments Off on Highlanders lock in four key signings for 2014

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· Brad Thorn, Hayden Parker, TJ Ioane re-sign
· Maori All Black Shane Christie signs up
· Tamati Ellison confirms he will be back pending a NZR dispensation

On the back of the key signing of Ben Smith, the Highlanders have today announced that former All Black legend Brad Thorn, ‘Kurow Kid’ Hayden Parker and Otago loose forward TJ Ioane have re-signed with the southern franchise for the 2014 Investec Super Rugby season, along with the signing of new Highlanders’ Maori All Black Shane Christie. As reported earlier this week Tamati Ellison has also confirmed he will remain with the Highlanders – pending a dispensation from New Zealand Rugby – as one of the team’s overseas players.

The Highlanders have now locked in a good core of their 37-man squad for 2014 with the remaining positions to be filled in the next three months.

The re-signing of Rugby World Cup Champion lock Brad Thorn is a significant boost for the team as he naturally fills a leadership and mentoring role for young players in the region and will help get the Highlanders’ performance back on track. Brad, his wife Mary-Anne and their family, have enjoyed their time in Dunedin and are looking forward to a break in the Deep South leading into the 2014 season.

With first five-eighth Colin Slade still considering his options after the 2013 season, the re-signing of 22-year-old Parker ensures the Highlanders are well served in the number 10 jersey with Lima Sopoaga already secure with the team for another year.

Highlanders’ Head Coach Jamie Joseph said he was pleased to have the majority of 2014 players locked in, particularly as players demonstrated a strong commitment to the Highlanders.

“It’s great to have Brad on board for 2014 as he brings a great deal of professionalism to any team he plays for. His work ethic, experience and leadership are invaluable for our team and he has been one of the most consistent players this season.

“Hayden in his first year of super rugby has also shown he has the right temperament and skillset to play a lot of games at this level. He has done well and we will benefit from having him in our environment next year.”

“TJ has been a revelation this year after filling the huge void created in our team with the loss, through injury, of Nasi Manu. TJ has come on leaps and bounds and will make a significant contribution in 2014”

“I look forward to welcoming Shane Christie who I coached in last year’s Maori All Blacks UK tour – he was one of the standout players.

“Shane has been one of the form open side flankers in ITM for a couple of seasons. He has a high work-rate with or without the ball – and can be very destructive at the breakdown. With more game time at this level I believe he will mature into a very good openside. His different style will compliment that of John Hardie’s and will be a great benefit to the team.

“One of the lessons I have learnt from contracting players over the past three seasons is the players that are hungry to be part of the team show this by committing early and putting their energy into their rugby. They know what they want and back themselves and the abilities of the team to be successful. Having Ben, Brad, Hayden, Shane, TJ and Tamati commit to the Highlanders after a poor season tells me they are hungry to play rugby – as coach I am excited about that.

We will be watching the ITM Cup competition with great interest as we look to fill the remaining positions in the squad for 2014,” Joseph said.

Highlanders’ General Manager, Roger Clark, commented that securing the four players along with the earlier signature of Ben Smith gives the Highlanders confidence that plans were on track to move onwards and upwards after a disappointing 2013 season. He said that the security of players in key positions meant the Highlanders’ next campaign is already well under way.

“We want to go into next year knowing the players have chosen the Highlanders first, and we want to make the positions competitive,” Clark said.

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