Blues sign Black as West heads to 'Canes
TRANSFER NEWS: The Blues have bolstered their inside back stocks with the signing of Otere Black and Bryn Gatland as Ihaia West moves to the Hurricanes.
Black has signed until 2019 and Gatland for one year with the Blues.
22-year-old Black who played for the New Zealand Maoris and New Zealand Under-20, has been part of the Hurricanes for two years as back-up to Beauden Barrett.
Gatland, also 22-years-old, was a key part of North Harbour’s success in the National Provincial 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.
Blues head coach Tana Umaga said the acquisition of two young players to partner outstanding prospect Stephen Perofeta is exciting for the franchise.
"Otere is a young player of considerable talent. I had the pleasure of coaching him with the New Zealand Under-20 at the World Cup where he played a big part in that win," Umaga said.
"He is an accomplished first-five 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,"
The opportunities for inside backs have come with Piers Francis, who made his debut for England recently, to return home to play for Northampton Saints and Hawkes Bay first-five Ihaia West moving south to replace Black at the Hurricanes.
"Piers has brought a very professional attitude to our team while Ihaia, who came to this club under a real spotlight, has been an excellent contributor on and off the field. Both will be assets to their new teams and we wish them well,"
Black, who has played 31 times for Manawatu and 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," said Black. "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," Black said.
"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,"
Meanwhile, West has signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes.
The 25-year-old will join franchise for the 2018 season in what will be a home coming of sorts for the former Napier Boys High School star.
After four seasons and 43 appearances with the Blues he brings considerable Super Rugby experience to the Hurricanes where he will be coached by his former New Zealand Under-20 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 Hawkes Bay. I’m excited to see what next season holds.
“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.”