Above: Prop Mike Kainga is one of two new players who have been signed up for Taranaki's Mitre10 Cup squad so far. Photo: Dave Lintott Photography.
The Port Taranaki Bulls have signed prop Mike Kainga and young midfield-back Johnny Faauli to their 2016 Mitre10 Cup squad.
The new additions effectively replace Angus Taavoa and James Marshall to the Waratahs and London Irish respectively.
Both the new players will have a chance to find their feet in the Taranaki environment through their involvement in the CMK Taranaki premier club rugby competition which kicks off in less than two weeks.
Faauli has been training with Coastal while Kainga will move up from Wellington in the coming weeks and will link up with a club then.
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper said both Kainga and Faauli were two quality players who were eager to contribute to Taranaki rugby.
“Johnny is young and enthusiastic with Mitre 10 Cup experience. He gives us options covering both 12 and 13, which restores depth to that area following the departure of James Marshall.
Mike Kainga is a tighthead specialist with a lot of experience. I’ve coached Mike previously, most recently with the Maori All Blacks and I continue to be impressed with his professionalism and maturity.
“Both Johnny and Mike were very keen to come here and grow themselves as players by getting involved with the clubs and working with us in the lead-up to the 2016 season. We’re pleased to have them on board” said Cooper.
Faauli was in the Canterbury academy but completed his schooling at St Kentigern College in Auckland and played for the Samoan U20 side in Italy and also featured for Counties Manukau 10 times in his debut season in 2015.
“I’m really enjoying the move so far, it’s a great place and everyone has been so welcoming. I’m looking forward to working hard, learning a lot and making the most of this opportunity. I’m just really keen to get stuck in and contribute to the teams I’m involved with here as much as possible” said Faauli.
The tighthead prop Kainga joins Taranaki from Bay of Plenty where he played for the last four seasons. The 25 year old has Super Rugby experience earning three caps in 2013. He then was selected in the Crusaders wider training squad in 2014, before being called into the Hurricanes in April that year. He also played for the New Zealand U20 championship-winning team and Maori All Blacks in 2014.
Kainga said he is looking forward to ‘kick-start’ his career in a new environment with Cooper who coached in while he was in the Maori All Black side.
There are still several positions open in the 2016 Taranaki Mitre 10 Cup squad for standout performers in premier rugby which starts on April 2.