One of New Zealand’s top up-and-coming second row prospects has decided to head north for his provincial rugby.
Manaaki Selby-Rickit, who represented the South Island in their 38-35 win over the North last year, has cut ties with Southland and linked up with Bay of Plenty for 2021.
The 24-year-old, who was born on the Kapiti Coast, made his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders las year and went on to play 10 matches for the franchise throughout the season.
With second-rowers dropping like flies in 2020, Selby-Rickit saw his stock rise throughout the Highlanders campaign and come the one-off interisland match, he was called upon to back-up the Crusaders duo of Sam Whitelock and Mitch Dunshea.
A brief cameo off the bench wasn’t enough for Selby-Rickit to earn a maiden All Blacks call-up, however, with Whitelock, Dunshea, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Barrett, Tupou Vaa’i and Quinten Strange all favoured ahead of the Highlander.
Having debuted for Southland in 2017, Selby-Rickit feature in seven matches for the Stags last year, but has now called time on his time in New Zealand’s deep south.
It’s a big blow for the Southland team, who won plenty of supporters across the country with their underdog successes in 2020.
Having secured just one win over the three campaigns between 2017 and 2019, their three victories last year was a major step-up. They also came within a hair of besting many of their more-fancied opposition, but couldn’t quite get over the line.
Southland coach Dale McLeod acknowledged that his side will always struggle to compete with other provinces – both in terms of results, and in terms of recruitment – due to the smaller budget the team has access to.
“We probably need another $150,000 in the budget to work with but I knew what the situation was when I took on the job, and we just need to keeping trying to create an environment where players want to stay here,” McLeod told Stuff.
In better news for Stags fans, McLeod teased that Southland had signed an “outstanding” signing which might “shock” a few people.
One possibility is new Highlanders fullback Solomon Alaimalo, who has strong ties to the Southland coach and has recently made the move south from the Chiefs.
Alaimalo’s brother Charles is also on the Southland books but will spend the early stages of 2021 representing Italian side Zebre in the PRO14.
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