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Nine Of The Most Impactful Signings Heading Into The URC 2022

Nine Of The Most Impactful Signings Heading Into The URC 2022

The nine most impactful signings heading into the 2022 united rugby championship season.

Sep 16, 2022 by RugbyPass
Nine Of The Most Impactful Signings Heading Into The URC 2022

With just hours until kick off of the 2022 United Rugby Championships, the league that last year established itself as one of the very best in the game has seen plenty of new signings.

In a real testament to the work that was done last season some of the very biggest names in the game have joined the competition, we take a look at nine new signings who look set to have a significant impact for their new clubs. 

Eben Etzebeth, Sharks 

At just thirty-years-old, it is incredible to think that Etzebeth has amassed over 100 test caps and with it risen to legendary status in the international game.

A true enforcer in every sense of the word, the 6’8” behemoth is a huge signing for the Sharks as they look to move past the disappoint of last season.  Already possessing one of the very best packs in the competition, Etzebeth’s reunion with his good pal Siya Kolisi means that the Sharks have two of the world’s best forwards in their leadership group.

In addition to his leadership qualities, Etzebeth is one of the very best set piece forwards in the game as he operates at a truly elite level at both line-out and scrum time. As a ball carrier he is close to unstoppable whilst in defence he smashes opposition into another galaxy.

Formerly a stalwart of his native Western Province and Stormers, Etzebeth’s decision to join rivals the Sharks will hurt Cape Townian fans. However due to Western Province’s heavily publicized financial struggles, bringing Etzebeth back from French giants Toulon was always an unlikely proposition. Commanding a salary of nearly $1million per season in France, it is incredible that the Sharks managed to lure him back to South Africa.  

Malaki Fekitoa, Munster 

One of the hottest names going this offseason, Fekitoa’s signature was a major coup for Munster. A supremely talented operator in all areas, Fekitoa could be a fifty plus cap All Black by now had he remained in New Zealand. 

Alas his move to Europe in search of a deserved big contract with French Top14 giants Toulon in 2017 came as a shock to All Black fans. Following two rather unsuccessful seasons at a Toulon side in turmoil both on and off the pitch he joined the then high-flying English Premiership side Wasps.

Unfortunately, Wasps have too seen their fair share of off the field issues as they face a mountain of financial difficulty which made keeping star players like Fekitoa impossible. 

As they say one teams pain is another team’s gain as Munster swooped in for the World Class centres signature.

Due to the regulations put in place surrounding the limiting on the number of overseas players in Irish provincial set-ups, Fekitoa is Munster’s marquee signing for 2023. 

His signature could not have come at a better time as Springbok World Cup winner Damian De Allende departed the province at the end of last season to take up a contract in the Japanese Top League. 

De Allende certainly had some strong moments for Munster but in many respects Fekitoa is an upgrade for where Munster are looking to go. Joining De Allende in departing last season was Director of Rugby Johan van Graan and his heavily South African influenced game plan which ultimately yielded limited success for the southern province.

In his place comes English legend Graham Rowntree who was elevated from the role of forwards coach. Early signs from pre-season games and training footage shows Munster adopting a more open and attacking style which is more in line with the way the Irish national team play. Should this prove to be the case, two things will happen, firstly Munster supporters will be ecstatic and secondly Fekitoa will be a dominant force tearing defences apart. 

Sbu Nkosi, Sharks

Already a URC player last season, Nkosi’s departure from the Sharks to their heated rivals the Bulls has added some spice to their upcoming derby fixtures. 

Nkosi is simply electric, a physical freak with bundles of pace his addition to an already deadly Bulls backline is the piece de resistance for Jake White’s side.

Having narrowly lost the final last season, the Bulls enter 2022/23 as one of the title favourites. Now having to battle on two fronts as they get set to take part in Europe’s top competition the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time. Nkosi who is already a World Cup winner with the Springboks has an opportunity to become a household name the world over. 

Take into account he will be playing alongside fellow Springbok breakout stars Kurt-lee Arendse and Canan Moodie and the Bulls might just have the most dangerous back three in club rugby. 

Liam Williams, Cardiff Blues

Welsh and Lions stalwart Williams is already a bonified star with a resume to back up his inclusion on this list, or any other top players list for that matter. 

Having made the switch from the Scarlets this offseason, his move to the Welsh capital side has caused a seismic shift in power between the Welsh regions. For too long Cardiff have underperformed due to lacking just that final bit of quality, Williams addition goes a long way to correcting this issue. 

 Known for his long arcing runs, Williams is cream of crop when it comes to turning a lazy clearance kick into a lethal counter attacking opportunity. Most rugby fans will remember his epic run against the All Blacks for the Lions in 2017, a play which started just outside his goal line ended with teammate Sean O’Brien diving over for one of the best scores in rugby history.

At 31-years-old Williams still has plenty in the tank and will be looking to remind Welsh coach Wayne Pivac of his class ahead of the World Cup.

Toby Faletau, Cardiff Blues

Cardiff’s second giant signing see’s Lions number eight Faletau return to Wales following several years playing for English Premiership side Bath.

A colossal ball carrier with subtle skills, Faletau has all of the hallmarks of world class backrow player and has back it up with his play over the years, establishing himself as an all-time great number eight in the modern game. Injuries have certainly taken their toll on the now 31-year-old but when fit he remains one of the very best number eight in the world.

His addition to Cardiff pack is as crucial as Williams’ is to the backline. His experience, skill and carrying ability will help get solid go forward ball for the Cardiff attack to build off.  

At the set piece his ability to generate momentum from a less than ideal scrum platform will be crucial when playing against the big Irish and South African packs as will his ability to win clean line-out ball. 

All-in-all his signature might just prove to be the best piece of business Cardiff have done in well over a decade. 

Wes Goosen, Edinburgh

Certainly, an interesting signing for Edinburgh, the South African born former New Zealand under-20 representative could well prove to be the best signing of the lot. 

Equally adept playing in the back three as he is in the centres, Goosen has long been tipped to become an All Black. 

Unfortunately, injuries at crucial times has often derailed his progression through the ranks. Now playing in the URC albeit for a non-South Africa side might just put Goosen Springbok selectors minds. 

At just twenty-six-years-old the potential for him to play at the highest level is certainly still there. First and foremost, he will need to prove that he can stay fit all the while proving that the injuries haven’t made him lose that crucial yard of pace.  

When at his best Goosen was a dominant player in Super Rugby, possessing lightening quick feet, a strong kicking game and rock solid defensive capabilities. 

All going well, Goosen might well prove to be a steal this season and could perhaps have a career altering season that ends in international honours.

Charlie Ngatai, Leinster 

Initially considered a rather head scratching signing by the Irish powerhouse, Ngatai’s signature could well prove to be a crucial cog for Leinster in what will be a long season. 

As the strongest Irish province, the capital city side provide the bulk of the Irish squad year-in-year-out. Thus with this loss of players, Leinster’s front line centres, most notably Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are often unavailable for large chunks of the season. Factor in Ciaran Frawley’s rapid ascension to the national set up and suddenly Leinster become rather light in the centre department. 

At 32-years-old and with one All Black cap to his name, Ngatai has fourteen years of experience at the professional level. In a long season where the experienced players are either playing internationally or are rested, this experience could provide crucial leadership for the younger squad members. 

As Leinster know all too well, winning the league games is crucial to setting up a home play-off run which can often times be the difference.

This description may underplay Ngatai’s playing ability which in way is it designed to as he is still a baller in every sense of the word. It is just worth taking into account that Leinster’s area of need in other areas was greater so ultimately his experience may well have proven to be an important factor in the signing. 

Vaea Fifita, Scarlets

A buzz saw, simply put Fifita is not a player you want to see defending your channel. 

The 11-cap former All Black is a physical specimen whose game is modelled off the late great Jerry Collins provides the Scarlets with a player capable of going toe-to-toe with the most physical packs in the league.

Unlike Collins however, Fifita is also a weapon at the line-out due to his height (6’5”) which again is a significant bonus as the URC possesses some of the best lineout exponents in the game. 

Now three years removed from playing for the All Blacks, Fifita looks set to follow in the footsteps of his broth Leva in representing Tonga. Thus, the motivation for a strong season in a World Cup year will be burning heavily for Fifita which is certainly a great thing for the Scarlets. 

Joseph Dweba, Stormers

Now a fully fleged Springbok, Dweba’s route to the green jersey is an interesting one.

Starting out at the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby, Dweba struggled to gain recognition in South Africa due to the sheet number of international quality hookers. 

Following a number of frustrating seasons on the periphery of the South African game, Dweba departed for French Top14 side Bordeaux-Begles in 2020.

It was here that Dweba’s performances caught the eye of Springbok selectors making his international debut for the Boks against Argentina in 2021. 

His rise to international fame saw him become a hot commodity in the South African game and it was the Stormers who ultimately got his signature. His signing was a significant step forward for the reigning champions as they look to break free from the financial turmoil that has plagued the union for years. 

At 5’7” and 110kg Dweba is the catalogue model for what a Hooker looks like in the game today. Dweba regurly cuts opposition ball carriers down in brutal fashion has he utilizes the chop tackle technique of battering the ball carriers shins and hips. One area that he will need to improve is his line-out throwing which he will have a prime opportunity to do as he throws into the world class Pieter-Steph Du Toi and co in Cape Town. 

Although he has struggled somewhat for the Boks in the Rugby Championship this season, the 26-year-old has all of the tools to become a world class hooker. His addition to the Stormers pack offsets the loss of fellow Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi who has joined Etzebeth in signing for the Sharks. 

Written by Philip Bendon