Hunt switches camp to join Highlanders

MItchell Hunt

He is one of four new signings for the Dunedin-based franchise. Otago wing Jona Nareki, Canterbury three-quarter Ngane Punivai and Wellington midfielder Connor Garden-Bachop are the others to sign.

Hunt, 24, now playing in the Mitre 10 Cup for Tasman, has made 42 appearances for the Crusaders. He made his first-class debut for Auckland when studying engineering at the University of Auckland in 2015.

The Crusaders signed him for the 2016 season and the former Nelson College player shifted back to play for Tasman later that year.

"I'm excited to be joining the Highlanders family. I've had a fantastic four years with the Crusaders and I'm very thankful for the opportunities that gave me.

"I can't wait to get to work with my new team-mates, coaches and supporters of the Highlanders. I'm excited to learn, work hard and play for a great club," Hunt said.

One of the most significant achievements in his career to date was the long-range dropped goal he kicked at Christchurch Stadium in the last moments of their 2017 Super Rugby game to beat the Highlanders.

Nareki, 21, an All Blacks Sevens team member has played 24 games for Otago and was part of its Ranfurly Shield-winning side last year.

"I'm extremely excited and it's a dream come true to be joining the Highlanders family and to play at Forsyth Barr Stadium in front of our home fans," he said.

Garden-Bachop, 20, has played first-class rugby for Canterbury and Wellington and has links to the southern region through his father former All Black first five-eighths Stephen Bachop having played for Otago from 1992-96. Garden-Bachop's older brother Jackson is playing for Wellington.

Schooled at Scots College in Wellington, Connor Garden-Bachop played alongside Highlanders midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen.

He said he was beyond grateful for the opportunity and said it was 'awesome' to be following in his father's footsteps to play his rugby in Dunedin.

Punivai, 20, a product of Christ's College, has played for New Zealand Secondary Schools and New Zealand Under-20s. Able to play in the centres or on the wing he said, "I am really excited to be joining the Highlanders and am looking forward to taking the next step in my rugby journey down south. I am looking forward to getting stuck in," he said.

Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger said the players were all vital ingredients in the side's future.

"All of these players have the potential to be very exciting players for the club, they all have speed and deception and you need to have players with x-factor in any squad if you are going to do well in Super Rugby," he said.