Victor Matfield: best Super Rugby 2014 signing?
February 3, 2014
Which signing will make the biggest impact on Super Rugby 2014? © Scrum.com
Super Rugby each season features a number of men who play a starring role for a new team having been enticed by the thought of fresh pastures and greener grass. We've picked six players we believe will make a difference to their respective teams in 2014. But which players do you believe will be the headline signing when we re-live the season in August? Read our list and leave a comment at the foot of the page to join the conversation.
Kurtley Beale has moved back to Sydney in order to be with family and to control his life off the field after a turbulent 2013 with Melbourne Rebels and the Wallabies, One of Australia's most exciting playmakers, at his best, he missed much of the 2013 season through injury and off-field infractions. Returning to where he started, Beale hopes to have a more successful career at New South Wales Waratahs under disciplinarian Michael Cheika, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in a squad full of playmakers.
Kurtley Beale is back where it started for him, in Sydney, with the Waratahs © Getty Images
Matias Diaz has six international caps to his name having previously been part of Argentina's Under-20 side for two years. He has made the move to Super Rugby and the Highlanders from the Argentine club competition, and he has plenty to learn, but he seems, even aged just 20, to be an impressive tight-head prop. He could easily develop into the cornerstone of the Highlanders' no-frills set-piece this year after their off-season loss of front-rowers Jamie Mackintosh, Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock.
Benji Marshall moved from the National Rugby League to union with high hopes of being as big in rugby as he was in league at his prime. Marshall was expected initially to start at fullback and progress towards a playmaking role closer to the action, but Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is already talking of him as the franchise's first-choice fly-half. He will have a tough time proving himself during the Super Rugby season, but he has spoken of his desire to play for the All Blacks and we're keen to see if his form matches the hype. Certainly, he is among the headline movers.
Benji Marshall's form slipped with Wests Tigers, but the Blues are confident he will recapture his best © Getty Images
The Rugby World Cup-winning lock has returned to Super Rugby with the Bulls, after retiring post-RWC 2011 in New Zealand, in order to prove his form and fitness for international duties and the 2015 World Cup in England. Matfield helped the Bulls to the Super Rugby title in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and his return to the side will be a great motivator for the now-inexperienced squad even though he is not expected to play every game. His fitness and technical skills are said to be undiminished, but questions will be asked of his ability to adjust to the changed game.
Victor Matfield last played in anger during 2011, but the Bulls expect him to lead from the front © Getty Images
Mils Muliaina has returned to New Zealand to play with the Chiefs after a three-year stint in Japan. The former All Blacks star previously was a key player for the Blues and the Chiefs as well as taking part in the Rugby World Cup 2011-winning campaign in which he was unfortunate to injure himself during his 100th Test. He retired from the international side after his shoulder injury forced him out of the World Cup, but he offers huge experience and will still be a huge asset to the Chiefs this season.
Mils Muliaina has always had an eye for a gap and a try © PA Photos
The Brumbies signed their first Japanese player to the franchise on the recommendation from Eddie Jones, and Harumichi Tatekawa is highly regarded by George Gregan and Toutai Kefu as well as Jones; Kefu has described him as the best Japanese player he has seen. Tatekawa is a star for the Japanese national team, earning 20 caps for the Cherry Blossoms since his debut in 2012, and we're keen to see his progress even though he may receive only limited playing time alongside Wallabies playmakers Matt Toomua, Christian Leali'ifano and Pat McCabe and South African Lionel Cronje.
Toutai Kefu believes Harumichi Tatekawa is the best Japanese player he has seen © Getty Images
Which player moves caught your eye especially for Super Rugby 2014? Which player in particular are you glad to see at your team for this year? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape