Hawke’s Bay Magpies prop Joel Hintz has signed a short-term deal with South African and former Super Rugby franchise the Sharks to play in the United Rugby Championship.
The signing, for a team coached by New Zealander John Plumtree, who had 11 games for Hawke’s Bay at the start of his own first-class playing career in 1992, is as injury-cover.
It was announced by the Durban-based Sharks on social media.
Hintz comes off a one-season stint with American Major League Rugby side the New England Free Jacks and a tumultuous fifth season with the Magpies, which included regaining the Ranfurly Shield and Hawke’s Bay getting to the National Provincial Championship first-division final for the first time.
Hintz, a 27-year-old tighthead prop and former powerlifting champion from Masterton who played club rugby for Waipukurau club Central, debuted in first-class rugby with two matches for Canterbury in 2017. He has since played in 11 games for Wellington Lions, 50 for the Magpies, and 12 for the Free Jacks, but has not played in Super Rugby.
The signing has been criticised by some Sharks fans, wondering why suitable other props couldn’t be found in South Africa, but also upset by the performance of their team to date: 15th of 16 on the URC table with just one win from seven games.
The Sharks opened with away losses to Irish sides Munster and Leinster, Welsh side Ospreys, and Italian side Zebre (where the coaching team includes former Magpies coach Josh Syms), before returning to South Africa for a single-point loss to Irish side Connacht and a 69-14 win over Welsh regional side the Dragons, both in Durban, and last weekend an away loss to Pretoria-based former Super Rugby franchise the Bulls.
Meanwhile, several Hawke’s Bay players could be lining-up in the 2024 American Major League Rugby, depending on financial viability worries of some of the teams, which led this week to the withdrawal of Canadian side the Toronto Arrows.
It affects the situation of Lolani Faleiva, a prop who in 2022 played one match for the Magpies and scored a try in Taradale’s Maddison Trophy Hawke’s Bay premiership grand final win, and who had been signed for a third season with the Arrows.
Elsewhere in the competition, Magpies Caleb Makene and Frank Lochore are signed to play for Utah, to be coached by former All Black and Magpie Greg Cooper; loose forward Tupou Afungia, who in 2022 scored three tries in his only match for the Magpies (a Ranfurly Shield defence against Poverty Bay), is returning to San Diego Legion, coached by former All Black and Magpies halfback Danny Lee, a former Magpies assistant coach; and midfield back and former Scotland international Nick Grigg is with new MLR franchise Miami Sharks.
Hawke’s Bay Today understands more signings of Magpies players to MLR are possible in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, the Japanese League 1 starts at the weekend, with Magpies loose forward Marino Mikaele-Tu’u signed by Sagamihara Dynaboars, while Hisamitsu Shimada, a Japanese hooker and Hawke’s Bay global academy member who scored a memorable try for the Magpies against Auckland at Eden Park in his New Zealand first-class debut in August, is up for a third season with Red Hurricanes Osaka, who include lock Michael Allardice, who played in 57 matches for the Magpies from 2013 to 2019.
Magpies halfback Brad Weber last weekend celebrated his second French Top 14 Championship match with a win for new club Stade Francais, which starts its 2023-2024 European Championship campaign on Monday morning (New Zealand time) against England club Sale.
Last month 12 of the 2023 Magpies were named in squads for the new Super Rugby Pacific season starting in February.
Doug Laing is a senior reporter based in Napier with Hawke’s Bay Today, and has 50 years of journalism experience in news gathering, including breaking news, sports, local events, issues, and personalities.