Stags secure scorching wing Kade Poki
Outstanding Highlanders wing Kade Poki has signed with the Stags for the 2011 season.
The 23-year-old previously played his provincial rugby for Tasman, with the Marlborough Boys' High School product playing 40 games for the combined union since his debut against Taranaki in 2007.
However, after spending the Super rugby season with the Highlanders, the dynamic outside back made it clear that he wanted to play his provincial rugby with Southland this season.
The initial talks were met by a barrier when the New Zealand Rugby Union expressed scepticism about Rugby Southland's offer considering the organisations recent financial problems.
Poki said yesterday that after some lengthy negotiating his link with the Stags was agreed on and he can now call himself a Southlander.
The elusive, game-breaking back was delighted that it had fallen into place and he was looking forward to linking up with his mates from the Highlanders.
"That's why I wanted to play for Southland. I've got some pretty good mates there," he told The Southland Times yesterday.
New Zealand Rugby Union spokesman Brent Anderson said yesterday he didn't want to discuss individual contracts.
However, he said that when the NZRU fronted up with the $500,000 loan to help bail out Southland recently it came with conditions. One of those was that the NZRU had to sign off any signings Southland made.
"When we put the (loan) offer to Rugby Southland it came with some conditions. One of those was that any player signings need our approval, for obvious reasons. We are very serious about seeing that through."
Anderson said there were some key questions the NZRU would ask when it was approached for approval. One of the major ones was whether the union could afford it.
While Anderson didn't want to speculate on the Poki situation, it is obvious the NZRU's questions were met with the right answers, with Poki's signing given the green light.
Poki's inclusion in the Southland provincial squad will be a huge boost for the team as it tries to remain in the top-seven premiership competition, and potentially push for a place in the top two after round-robin play to book a spot in the final.
Poki will add plenty of attacking power to the Stags with his ability to stay on his feet in the tackle through balance and strength.
With James Paterson unlikely to play a major role with the Stags because of injury, Southland were looking a little light in the outside backs before Poki's signing.
Now it looks much more sound.
Mark Wells, who last year was one of the Stags' better backs, will again be a key option, while Glen Horton is also a proven performer.
Poki's ability to play at centre could also prove valuable as cover for the first choice, Kendrick Lynn.
Poki is in Dunedin recovering from a minor knee surgery and will move to Invercargill next week. He may miss the first one or two weeks of the competition to ensure his knee is fine.
- © Fairfax NZ News