Taranaki sevens star Mark Atkins is on the cusp of signing with Hawke's Bay.
Atkins, 21, scored three tries in Taranaki's convincing 32-17 sevens triumph over North Harbour in Queenstown last month - his power and pace catching the eye of the Hawke's Bay coaches.
The 21-year-old has spent the past three years studying for a physical education degree at Otago University but put it on hold in search of a professional rugby contract.
"Nothing is signed yet but I have had an offer from Hawke's Bay," he said yesterday. "It's pretty exciting, really. I would have obviously loved to stay in Taranaki but I've got to take the opportunities that come calling."
With no counter offer on the table from Taranaki Rugby, Atkins felt he had little choice but to head to the east coast.
"It's a big decision, moving over to Hawke's Bay, but it's a big goal of mine - to play ITM Cup this year," he said.
Hawke's Bay were relegated from the premier division of the NPC after winning just three of their 10 matches.
While Atkins wanted to stay in Taranaki, his path was blocked by a number of loose forwards already contracted, including Blade Thomson, Jarrad Hoeata, Kane Barrett, Nemia Soqeta and Mitch Brown. It is not known if Heiden Bedwell-Curtis has been offered a contract.
"Half the Taranaki team are playing Super Rugby, so it's pretty hard to break into," Atkins said.
His move would mean he was also unavailable for Tukapa, with Hawke's Bay insistent he play club rugby there.
That would be another blow for Tukapa, who are likely to be without the services of 48-game Taranaki flanker Chris Walker, who is now living in Australia after his contract was not renewed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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