The Blues have signed Highlanders first five-eighth Chris Noakes for next season as well as three younger players who made a big impression this season.
The three signings to Super Rugby contracts are Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua and Francis Saili who all look to have bright futures at the franchise and will be key to incoming coach John Kirwan’s plans to rebuild the ailing team.
But the signing of Noakes is a perplexing one. He was arguably the fourth choice No 10 at the Highlanders this year, behind Colin Slade, Lima Sopoaga and Mike Delany. With Gareth Anscombe and Michael Hobbs both on the Blues’ books for next season, it has to be questioned what the point of the signing is.
Anscombe is clearly the future at first-five for the Blues and will become a better player by spending more time on the field.
But having two other first-fives in the squad means Anscombe’s playing time is likely to be reduced.
Noakes will continue to play provincial rugby for Bay of Plenty.
The 27-year-old was born in Orakei, Auckland and was a former Kings College 1st XV player.
The franchise has continued to sign players while they searched for a new coach and although negotiations with Noakes would have been going on before Kirwan’s appointment, the former All Blacks wing would have almost certainly agreed to the signing, even though he is currently back in Italy.
Blues High Performance manager Nick Sheppard said Noakes is a welcome addition to the franchise. ”Chris has had a really solid season for the Highlanders on the back of an excellent provincial campaign for the Bay last year,” Sheppard said.
”So we were pretty keen to see him return to Auckland at this stage of his rugby career.”