Club Rugby

Ospreys sign Crusader’s Fonotia

imagePro12 outfit, Ospreys, have signed Kieron Fonotia from Crusaders, subject to a work permit.

The 28-year old, who can play centre or wing, has put pen to paper on a two-year contract and will arrive at the Liberty Stadium later this year.

At 1.86m tall and 108kg, Fonotia has been a regular fixture in a star studded Crusaders back line since making his Super Rugby debut at the start of the 2014 season, scoring a try with his first touch as a 70th minute replacement in a 14-13 win over Stormers.

At the end of that season he started the Super Rugby Final on the wing as Crusaders were defeated 33-32 by the Waratahs.

He has also made more than 50 appearances for Tasman Makos in the ITM Cup, scoring in a 36-32 loss to Taranaki in the 2014 final.

He wore the number 12 shirt in Crusaders opening game of the 2016 Super Rugby season this weekend, against Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

Andrew Millward, Ospreys Rugby General Manager, said:

“We are delighted to be able to announce the signing of a player who has made a huge impact in Super Rugby over the last few years alongside some of world rugby’s most exciting backs, and whose versatility will make him a huge asset for us over the coming seasons.

“He will bring a positive mindset and a willingness to challenge defenders with a dynamism and skill set that can grow our game and complement the players around him.

“In particular, his presence will support some of the young athletes that are crucial to our backline succession planning over the next couple of seasons, players who are starting to make an impact at age-grade, Championship and Premiership level, whilst being available through all aspects of a calendar that does challenge us at times.

“However, make no bones about it, he is a quality performer who we feel can add immediate value to the team and develop his own game accordingly, helping us to compete on all fronts. It’s an important signing for Ospreys Rugby, and all supporters should be excited about the prospect of seeing Kieron in an Ospreys shirt next season.”

Crusaders centre Kieron Fonotia says that he’s looking forward to linking up with his new colleagues at the Ospreys later this year.

The 28-year old from Christchurch has signed with the region on a deal running until summer 2018 and will arrive in Ospreylia later this year.

A Super Rugby regular – and 2014 finalist – Fonotia is renowned in the southern hemisphere as an uncompromising and physical player, hard running and strong in defence.

Speaking after his move to the Liberty Stadium was confirmed, Fonotia said:

“I’m really excited about the change of environment and the challenge of going to Wales to play for the Ospreys.

“I’ve got a few friends who play up there and they all tell me that it will suit the way I play. Obviously I’ve got a job to do here first before I can think too hard about playing for the Ospreys, but I’m looking forward to it.

“I’ve had a look over the team and there’s pretty much the Wales forward pack, that’s pretty awesome for a back to play behind that, it should mean some go forward ball.

“I pride myself on being a player who can break the line when attacking, as well as being strong defensively, I bring a bit of aggression. Talking to my mates, the PRO12 is a physical competition, direct, and it will suit my game.”

Fonotia has been an almost constant fixture in the Crusaders backline in recent seasons, playing alongside some of the biggest names not only in New Zealand but in the world game. Having established himself at his homeland’s most successful province, he says that the experience has helped him to develop as a player.

“I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with some of the best rugby players in the world over the last few years and you do learn a lot off people like that” said Fonotia.

“I know that I see a lot more on the rugby field now than I used to because of the influence of some of these guys. I’ve learned heaps this last couple of years, and it’s important to understand that you should never stop learning. That’s the benefit of rubbing shoulders with some pretty sharp players. They teach you that if you stop working you’ll get overtaken.

“That’s the attitude I’ll bring with me to Wales. I want to keep learning in a new environment, to be the best I can and, hopefully, I can give something to the players already there to help them as well.”

Having taken a less than orthodox route to Super Rugby, Fonotia can provide a role model to players in the region who themselves have not been part of the development pathway.

“I sort of did the hard way I suppose!” he laughed.

“Before I got a Super Rugby contract I was a tiler by trade, until I was 21 or 22, and then I got a chance to play for Tasman in the ITM Cup. Off the back of that came the opportunity to play for the Crusaders development side and it went from there.

“With that background I feel that I really appreciate what it means to be a professional rugby player because I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing before. Playing for Crusaders and having the opportunity to join the Ospreys is far more preferable to leaving the house at 6am for a 12-hour shift. That makes me enjoy this career all the more.”

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