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Crusaders sign three-test All Blacks halfback for 2022 Super Rugby

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have signed three-test All Blacks halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi on a one-year deal ahead of the 2022 Super Rugby season.

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Tahuriorangi joins the Crusaders from the Chiefs, where he has spent the past four seasons after moving north from the Hurricanes at the end of 2017.

It was during his debut campaign with the Chiefs when Tahuriorangi earned a surprise call-up to the All Blacks three years ago, named as third-choice halfback behind Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.

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However, after playing three tests against Argentina in Nelson, Japan in Tokyo and Italy in Rome throughout 2018, Tahuriorangi hasn’t been sighted for the All Blacks since then.

Instead, Chiefs teammate Brad Weber has cemented himself as New Zealand’s third-choice halfback, while Blues starlet Finlay Christie has also moved up the pecking order and is a member of the current All Blacks squad.

In fact, Tahuriorangi struggled for game time in Super Rugby this year as Weber, the franchise’s co-captain who yesterday confirmed he has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby for two further years, dominated the No 9 jersey this season.

The additional rise of rookie prospect Xavier Roe has seemingly forced Tahuriorangi to survey his options as he came off-contract this year, but the Crusaders have come calling as they look to build depth at halfback for next season.

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The Christchurch-based franchise currently have two halfbacks on their books for 2021, one-test All Black Mitchell Drummond and Maori All Blacks representative Bryn Hall.

Ere Enari, the club’s third-choice halfback, looks to be the casualty of Tahuriorangi’s arrival at Orangetheory Stadium, but the latter’s move south gives the Crusaders three players with international experience at their disposal at No 9.

Few franchises across Super Rugby can boast such depth, which should help the Crusaders in their bid to claim a sixth piece of silverware in as many seasons.

Tahuriorangi has history with Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, who selected the Maori All Blacks representative in the New Zealand U20 team that went on to win the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy six years ago.

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Robertson said his time with Tahuriorangi in the national age-grade set-up gave him a good insight into the latter’s abilities.

“I was really impressed by Te Toiroa during our 2015 Junior World Championship campaign, he was a big part of our success that year and we’re looking forward to getting the best out of him next season,” he said via a statement.

“I know he’s prepared to come down here and compete for a spot which is hugely exciting, and we look forward to welcoming him into our whanau.”

Tahuriorangi, meanwhile, said he was “grateful” to be handed another chance in Super Rugby franchise heading into next season.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to join a club that has such an awesome track record in Super Rugby, and it’s exciting to have the chance to contribute to a team like the Crusaders,” Tahuriorangi said.

“I worked with Razor a few years back as part of the New Zealand Under 20s programme, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with him next season and embracing a fresh challenge in my rugby career.”

The acquisition of Tahuiorangi represents the second signing made by the Crusaders for the 2022 campaign, as he joins Los Pumas star Pablo Matera as the two new players set to join the club.

Their presence should help compensate for the confirmed departures of Michael Alaalatoa (Leinster), Tom Sanders (Tokyo Sungoliath), Brett Cameron (Kamiashi Seawaves), Manasa Mataele (Western Force) and Josh McKay (Glasgow Warriors).

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Crusaders sign three-test All Blacks halfback for 2022 Super Rugby

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