For debutant All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe; his call to sign for the Blues was a ‘win’ for the franchise – thanks to the props Harbour Rugby connection.
The prop with the remarkable moustache and famed propping technique, is a devoted North Harbour man. That association rewarded the Blues Super Rugby franchise, over the Chiefs – whom Tu’inukuafe had signed a short term contract with (after the team had a prop-injury crisis).
That competition for the prop forwards signature might be a sign how the franchises are now prepared to import talent. Talk of the Highlanders also speaking to Karl Tu’inukuafe, is evidence that – like French Rugby – the forwards position is critical to the modern game.
Karl Tu’inukuafe; Blues win props signature, with Harbour connection
The Blues and New Zealand Rugby announced late last week that All Black and Harbour prop Karl Tu’inukuafe would join the Super Rugby franchise, on an three years contract. It secures his services past the Rugby World Cup, and significantly, for the Mitre 10 Cup.
While Tu’inukuafe is only in his formative International career; and might still need to prove his hold of the black jersey is valid, his advancement in the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup under head coach Tom Coventry was the catalyst. His form as a replacement for the Chiefs this year, directly led to his selection for the All Blacks.
“It is exciting for my family and me to be coming home. I think we have a strong squad for next year. I have my Harbour coach Tom Coventry coming in [to the Blues] to take the forwards. and I get to stay in the region,” said Tu’inukuafe.
“The set-up at the Blues looks great and I am going to enjoy being part of this club and hopefully I can do my part in helping the club do well”. And the introduction of another quality prop is a boost for the 2018 squad. “Karl has been one of the real finds in New Zealand rugby in the last couple of years, and will only get better and better,” said Blues coach Tana Umaga.
“He will be a really strong addition to our pack and gives us real depth in our front row with the likes of Ofa and Alex Hodgman.”
Blues include Tom Coventry in new coaching group
As well as the key signing of Karl Tu’inukuafe, the Blues coaching group has been altered for 2018. Alongside Leon MacDonald, Tom Coventry compliments the new signings – as Steve Jackson leaves the group.
The Harbour Rugby head coach ‘switch’ will provide a constant influence from the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership side. Harbour performed admirably in 2017, and finished in a superior position to their Auckland neighbours.
And Coventry is not in an unknown position. Coventry has had success as an assistant coach in Super Rugby previously. He was [ironically] with the Chiefs in 2012/13. Now, with Tu’inukuafe leaving the Chiefs for the Blues, both player and coach have ‘switched franchises’.
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) July 16, 2018
That close relationship will be a boost for the Blues, as the player will add to the strength that Ofo Tu’ungafasi has. The fellow All Black will feel comfortable, having a fellow leading prop beside him.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said Tu’inukuafe’s recommitment to New Zealand, was fantastic news for New Zealand Rugby. “Big Karl really impressed us in his first campaign with the All Blacks in June. He’s a humble man and very low-key, but he went about his work in a very professional manner.
“We all saw how destructive he can be as a scrummager but he’s also nailing his other core roles, he’s eager to learn and he made great strides in the black jersey. We look forward to working with Karl in the future.”
Harbour Connection with Blues ‘bolstered’
The North Harbour partnership within the Blues Super Rugby franchise, has not always flourished. Sometimes an obligatory component, yet with Tom Coventry following Steve Jackson, the relationship is indeed ‘stronger than ever’.
With the likes of Matt Duffie, James Parsons and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti core members of the Blues, it illustrates the Harbour Rugby representation. And as they stand, the addition of Tevita Li (from the Highlanders) and Bryn Hall (of the Crusaders) it will see the Harbour side a threat for the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup title.
Northland have also been recognized more too, with Matt Moulds, Josh Goodhue, Sam Nock and Kara Pryor carrying the flag for the Taniwha. Now both the provincial partners, are prime performers of the group.
And that was bolstered last week, with the signature of Karl Tu’inukuafe.
The 2018 Mitre 10 Cup kicks off, Thursday August 16: Harbour v Northland
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