Taranaki's call for an experienced prop to bolster their ranks has been answered from the deep south, with veteran Highlanders frontrower Chris King signing on for two years.
The departure of under-rated prop Michael Bent to Ireland at the end of the ITM Cup season, combined with the uncertain future of Shane Cleaver because of concussion issues, meant Tenderlink Taranaki coach Colin Cooper was a little uneasy about his front row options.
King, 31, brings a truckload of first-class experience, having turned out for the Crusaders and Highlanders a total of 97 times, while he has already racked up that same number of combined provincial caps for Canterbury, Otago and most recently Southland.
He reached his 50th game for Southland last season when Taranaki ventured to Invercargill to win the Ranfurly Shield.
“Chris is a very experienced and versatile player," Cooper said. "He has the ability to play on both sides of the scrum."
With King having connections to a number of players in the Taranaki squad, including Laurence Corlett, Craig Clarke and Jarrad Hoeata, Cooper felt his new charge would have little problem fitting in to his new environment.
"We are excited to have Chris on board, especially as Shane Cleaver is still uncertain due to his concussion issues," Cooper said.
"Chris is not being brought in as a replacement for Shane, rather his inclusion allows us to maintain depth in the front row, which will be important given the intense season ahead."
King was not contracted to Southland in 2012 because of financial constraints and the union's desire to bring through a number of new props.
While he is contracted to the Highlanders for next year's Super Rugby season, the 1.86cm, 118kg King had been contemplating an ITM Cup season with his feet up.
That changed when Cooper put the call out.
"From what I hear, the team works really hard but also has a lot of fun," King said from Dunedin where he was still finalising plans for the shift north.
"The boys I know from Taranaki speak very highly of the union and enjoy being a part of the set-up."
King is due to make the shift north early next week. It is anticipated he will get his first run with his new team in next Saturday's pre-season match against Counties-Manukau.
Tukapa and former Taranaki midfielder Nathan Hohaia has signed with Southland for the ITM Cup. Hohaia played 33 games for Taranaki, the last of them in 2009.
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