Christchurch - The Crusaders have locked in two more loose forwards for the 2018 season, with Pete Samu and Tom Sanders both committing to the team.
For Sanders it is a return to red and black, after spending the 2015 season in the Crusaders’ wider training group and then signing for the Chiefs for the last two years.
Sanders said he is grateful for the opportunities that he got at the Chiefs, but joining the Crusaders is a return home.
"I grew up in Little River, played for Lincoln University, and started my professional career with the Canterbury provincial team, so there is no doubt that this is home," he told the Crusaders' official website.
"I feel very fortunate to have been offered a contract with the Crusaders so that I can now live and play in the one place for the full year and represent the region where I grew up.
"I have enjoyed my two years at the Chiefs and I will remain grateful to them for giving me the chance to start my Super Rugby career."
Sanders is currently preparing for the upcoming provincial season with Canterbury, who he debuted for in 2014. The Banks Peninsula boy was a bolter into the New Zealand U20 squad that same year, attending only the final camp but making it to the team and becoming one of the standout forwards at the International Rugby Board Junior World Rugby Championship.
He has also represented the New Zealand Universities team, played in the Lincoln High School first XV for three years and was part of the New Zealand Schools Academy.
Samu is re-signing to the Crusaders for a third season, having debuted in 2016 against the Blues. He said he is excited about continuing with the successful side after playing a substantial role in the Super Rugby title win just ten days ago.
"I am loving playing in this team and there is no way I could turn down an offer to play here again next year after the season we’ve just had," he commented.
"We have some awesome loose forward talent here at the Crusaders, and that keeps pushing me to be my best, so I know that this is the best place for me to keep learning and growing my game."
Samu is Melbourne-born and had a stint in the Waratahs’ wider training group before moving to New Zealand in 2014.
He played club rugby in Nelson, earning a call-up to the Tasman Makos later that year. In 2015, the dynamic ball-runner was named the Player of the Year for the Crusaders Knights development team, and got called into the Crusaders squad towards the end of that season as injury cover.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said the two loose forwards would bring their own unique style to the squad, but what they shared was an awesome work ethic and some impressive power and speed.
"Pete Samu has an explosiveness and a flair factor that creates opportunities," he said.
"He has been huge for us this year and we look forward to seeing him continue to make his mark in 2018. Tom Sanders was a midfield back until he converted to loose forward in his teens, and he still shows the speed of a back but also has a massive motor and a really gritty, tough element to him, which we love.
"These are both players who we know we can rely on not only to perform their roles but to make the team better every time they play."