The arrival of big names and old faces is back in the new URC season

We’ve already delved into the four Irish counties (you can read our details for LeinsterAnd the MonsterAnd the Ulster And the Connacht here), but it was another busy summer coming and going through the BTK United Rugby Championship.

Some of the big names are returning to the URC, while others are making it to the league for the first time.

Here are some of the most exciting signings to watch in the rest of the league this season.

Son of Itzbeth (Sharks)

Arguably the most well-known newcomer to the URC this season, the Springbok legend returns to South Africa after three years in France with Toulon.

The towering lock provides added heft to the shark group that already includes Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas di Toit, Siya Kolisi and the sexy Vincent Tshituka joined from the lions.

Having previously played for the Stormers at home, Etzebeth has joined the Durban-based Sharks, who have spent a lot recently, and Carlo Sadie (Lions) and Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Sale) are among those who also arrived this summer.

Sean Everett’s side couldn’t get their star names together last season, finishing fifth overall and third out of four franchises in South Africa, but the addition of Etzebeth could be a game-changing arrival for both the team and the league as a whole.


Taulupe Valitau (Cardiff)

Cardiff made a big statement with their summer deals, as Wales legend Liam Williams swapped for crimson, Thomas Young joined from Wasps, and Taulupe Faletau ended his six-year spell in England.

Valletau – who previously played for the Dragons – has been in Bath since the 2016-17 season, but has struggled with injury in recent seasons, making only eight appearances in the Premier League in 2021/22.

Despite those injuries, the 31-year-old remained a vital player for both Wales, the British and the Irish, locking in 100 test matches.

Playing for Wales is said to be one of the main reasons for Valletau wanting to come home. While the back row has long crossed the 60 cap threshold to be selected for Wales while playing outside the country, it has not been available for matches in recent seasons that have fallen outside the official testing window, which clubs are not obligated to release players for.

Along with Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and James Botham, Valletau is adding more depth to Cardiff’s strong squad.


JJ Hanrahan (Dragon)

Well-traveled Kerriman arrives in Newport this season, where he can thrive to be the center of their attack.

Leaving Monster for the second time in 2021, Hanrahan spent last season at Clermont Auvergne in France where he was a regular fixture in the squad, making 27 appearances in all competitions.

However, his playing time this season will likely be more limited due to the arrival of Anthony Bellew from Toulon, and Hanrahan is now returning to the URC with the Dragons.

The 30-year-old has signed a long-term contract at Dean Ryan’s side, and if he can play the expressive rugby for which he is known, that could make the die-hard fighter an attractive watch.


scarlet

It looks like the Scarlets were far from their peak in 2017 when they bullied Leinster and Monster to win the Pro12 title.

Financially, they haven’t been able to compete with the Irish in recent seasons, and as such have struggled to bring in the kind of iconic characters that will bring fans to the stadium.

The signing of Vaea Fifita may bring more excitement to Parc Y Scarlets, with the arrival of the 11-player All Black squad from Wasps.

Capable of playing both back row and lock-up, Fifita appeared 18 times with the Wasps last season, having joined from the Hurricanes in Super Rugby.

Konnacht’s 30-year-old younger sister Leva Fifita adds real strength and speed to the Scarlets pack.


Marco van Staden (Bulls)

A strong back row returns to Pretoria this season, after spending one year in the Premier League with the Leicester Tigers.

His tenure with the Tigers was interrupted by a concussion, and he did not appear for the club after December of last year after he had stopped. But after being allowed to return, he re-signed with his former team, and would form what looks like a fighting back row alongside Marcel Coetzee and Elijah Low.

Arguably the Bulls’ best player in the 2021 Rainbow Cup, Van Staden led the competition in both tackles and win-turns, and this format saw him call up in a Springbok setup, appearing in two of the three Tests against the British and Irish Lions


Joseph Doiba (Stormers)

The defending champions lost key players in the off-season, with the departures of linebacker Eric Gillant and winger Sergil Peterson.

Their most notable signature is that of Springbok prostitute Joseph Dwiba, who returned to South Africa from Bordeaux Bigles.

After Bungie Mbonambe lost to the Sharks last year, the Stormers looked to be a bitch, and Dwiba’s arrival completes the charismatic first row of South African internationals alongside Frans Malherbe and Stephen Kitchoff.

Short and powerful at just 5 feet 7 inches tall, Dweba has fought four matches with the Boks since his debut in 2021.

He’s also no stranger to this competition, having liked the Panthers in the old Pro14 before moving to France in 2020.

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