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Crusaders star on the move?

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Young Crusaders star Will Jordan to move to Super Rugby rivals?

The Crusaders could lose young star Will Jordan to one of their fiercest rivals come the end of the season, according to a report from the Otago Daily Times.

The 21-year-old outside back has been in spectacular form for the reigning back-to-back champions in his debut Super Rugby season.

Although he is currently out of action due to a foot injury, the 2017 World Junior Player of the Year nominee has scored eight tries in eight appearances this year after missing the entire 2018 Super Rugby campaign due to injury.

He is one of many young, exciting outside backs within the Crusaders’ ranks, teaming up with the likes of George Bridge, David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Manasa Mataele, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Ngani Punivai to help catapult the Crusaders to the top of the Super Rugby standings as they eye a third successive title.

His sharp form, however, has reportedly made him a target for South Island rivals the Highlanders, who are preparing to undergo a mammoth exodus at the end of this year.

At least 11 key players have confirmed their exits from the franchise, with All Blacks Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock (both Pau), Waisake Naholo (London Irish), Liam Squire (NTT Red DoCoMo Hurricanes), Jackson Hemopo (Mitsubishi DynaBoars), Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes) and Elliot Dixon (Ricoh Black Rams) headlining the departures.

A further four players – Richard Buckman, Tom Franklin (both Kobe Steelers), Marty Banks (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes) and Matt Faddes (Ulster) – will also be leaving, meaning some aggressive recruiting will be required by the Highlanders if they are to remain play-off contenders in 2020.

According to the ODT, Jordan is believed to be “in the sights of the Highlanders” in an acquisition that would help offset the departures of outside backs Smith, Naholo, Faddes and Buckman.

Given the extensive depth of quality in the Crusaders’ outside back stocks, game time could be hard to come by, even for someone as talented as Jordan, and with plenty of spaces opening up in the Highlanders’ starting XV, a shift south to guarantee playing time could be appealing for the former Christchurch Boys’ High School fullback.

If Jordan does move from Christchurch to Dunedin, he would link up with former schoolboy and New Zealand U20 teammate Josh McKay, the electric outside back who has been with the Highlanders since 2018 and has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Forsyth Barr Stadium until the end of next year.

Jordan could also be joined by current Crusaders teammate Mitch Hunt, who has been rumoured to make the shift south next year.

The 23-year-old first-five has been competing for a bench role at the Crusaders alongside one-test All Black Brett Cameron, with star playmaker Richie Mo’unga dominating game time in the starting lineup.

While current Highlanders pivot Josh Ioane has impressed in his first season as a starting first-five, there is a much higher chance of Hunt starting more regularly at the Highlanders than there is at the Crusaders while Mo’unga is there.

Banks’ imminent return to Japan at the end of this year frees up a space at fly-half for Hunt, who would compete with Ioane and injured North Harbour playmaker Bryn Gatland for the No. 10 jersey.

News of Jordan’s potential signing with the Highlanders caps off a busy week of transfer talk for the club.

The announcement of Lomax’s departure to the Hurricanes on Friday came just a day after the capture of current Sunwolves head coach, Japan assistant coach and former Highlanders first-five, assistant and head coach Tony Brown, who has returned to the franchise in a yet-to-be-determined assistant coaching role on a three-year deal.

In the wake of both announcements, Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said that player signings for next year would be made in the coming weeks.

“The Highlanders will announce a number of exciting newcomers in the coming weeks and will be in a position to largely finalise our squad over the next few months,” Clark said.

Many of the anticipated signings are expected to come from the New Zealand U20 side, with young All Blacks Sevens duo Jona Nareki and Scott Gregory among those rumoured to be joining the franchise.

In other news:

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Young Crusaders star Will Jordan to move to Super Rugby rivals?