CRAIG LEWIS looks at five astute signings made ahead of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Lood de Jager (Cheetahs to Bulls)
Although De Jager endured an indifferent season last year, where he failed to reach the heights of 2015 when he was named SA Player of the Year, he remains one of the most influential forwards in South African rugby.
His move to the Bulls will provide the Pretoria-based side with some considerable extra grunt up front, while adding to their lineout strength.
The Bulls environment should also bring the best out of De Jager, who will be determined to stake his claim to have first rights to the Springbok No 5 jersey.
Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse to Sharks)
The Sharks caught many by surprise when they signed the veteran French fullback, but it’s a recruitment that was completed with due diligence.
Considering Willie le Roux has left the Durban-based franchise after just one season, and that young fullbacks such as Curwin Bosch and Rhyno Smith are still making their way through the ranks, there is an opportunity for Poitrenaud to provide an important mentorship role.
It remains to be seen what sort of on-field role has been envisioned for Poitrenaud this season, but he will add much-needed experience to the Sharks’ backline stocks.
Ross Geldenhuys (Highlanders to Kings)
This is another signing that not many would have expected, with the 2015 Super Rugby-winning prop moving from the Highlanders to join the embattled Kings.
The 33-year-old will bring a wealth of experience after playing in New Zealand for the last three seasons, and will be looking to cement his place at tighthead prop.
Geldenhuys has said he believes he is in top condition, and should strengthen a Kings squad that lacks depth and experience.
Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand Sevens to Blues)
Although Williams is set to miss a large chunk of the 2017 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the Rio Olympics last year, his return will still be highly anticipated.
Williams has divided opinion with the regularity with which he has switched teams and codes, but he has committed to New Zealand rugby until 2019, and will provide the Blues with a considerable boost when he’s back in action.
Stephen Moore (Brumbies to Reds)
The struggling Reds will welcome the return of the veteran Wallabies hooker, who heads back to Brisbane after a seven-year stint with the Brumbies.
He will provide much-needed experience and leadership to a team that will be desperately hoping to head in a new direction this year.
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