Black, Gatland bolster squad

Black, Gatland bolster squad

The Blues have bolstered their inside back stocks with the signing of two young players, Otere Black and Bryn Gatland for the Investec Super Rugby competition.

Black, 22, who played for the New Zealand Maoris and New Zealand Under-20s, has been part of the Hurricanes for two years as back-up to Beauden Barrett.

Gatland, also 22, was a key part of North Harbour’s success in the Mitre 10 Cup and played four times for the Blues as a replacement this season. He also played for the NZ Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener against the British and Irish Lions.

Black has signed until 2019 and Gatland for one year.

Blues Head Coach Tana Umaga said the acquisition of two young players to partner outstanding prospect Stephen Perofeta is exciting for the club.

“Otere is a young player of considerable talent. I had the pleasure of coaching him with the New Zealand Under-20s at the World Cup where he played a big part in that win,” Umaga said.

“He is an accomplished first-five and will be a valuable addition to our young group of first-fives.

“Bryn impressed us when he came into the Blues this year with his ability and a level of maturity beyond his years. He showed with his performance against the Lions that he can rise to the big occasion.”

The opportunities for inside backs have come with Piers Francis, who made his debut for England recently, to return home to play for Northampton Saints and Hawkes Bay first-five Ihaia West moving south to replace Black at the Hurricanes.

“Piers has brought a very professional attitude to our team while Ihaia, who came to this club under a real spotlight, has been a excellent contributor on and off the field. Both will be assets to their new teams and we wish them well.”

Black, who has played 31 times for Manawatu and 17 caps for the Hurricanes, has decided to move to the Blues to further his career opportunities.

“It was a hard decision for me to decide to leave the Hurricanes,” said Black. “The team has been a big part of my life and has shaped me to be who I am today as a player.  I owe the coaching group, the players and the staff a great deal,” Black said.

“I am excited about the chance to be part of such an exciting playing group at the Blues and I am looking forward to working with Tana again.

“There are no guarantees but I hope to make the Blues 10 jumper my own and I am looking forward to all the challenges that come with that.”