Manasa Mataele to return to Canterbury after Super Rugby Pacific

Manasa Mataele is no longer a Crusader, but he isn’t entirely lost to rugby in New Zealand.

The 24-year-old will return to Christchurch to play for Canterbury in next year’s NPC, after completing his first season of Super Rugby Pacific with the Western Force.

Mataele, who will start on the left wing against Hawke’s Bay in Christchurch on Saturday, signed a two-year deal with the Force in July.

His wife, Martha, also a powerful and speedy wing, will continue to play for Canterbury’s Farah Palmer Cup team.

Mataele’s return for a third season will be a significant boost for the red and blacks, who are set to farewell fullback Josh McKay (Glasgow) at the end of this season.

Fresh from a stint on the sideline after a head knock, Mataele scored twice against Wellington last weekend, and is the most dangerous attacking threat in a back line which has had its struggles the past few seasons.

Mataele played 32 games for the Crusaders the past five seasons, but found the going tough for opportunities after busting his knee early in the 2019 campaign.

He made just two starts (nine appearances) across 2020 and 2021, with Sevu Reece, George Bridge, Will Jordan and Leicester Fainga’anuku getting the bulk of the starts on the wing.

“It’s exciting for me, it’s going to be different, that’s the one thing I’m going to take into there,” Mataele said of his move to Perth.

“But change is good for growth, and that’s the mindset I’m going with over there. Whatever I can give, I will put my front foot forward. I could learn something from them as well, it goes both ways for me. I am always learning, and it’s going to be a different, but a good challenge.”

Mataele is in the process of sorting his visa, and isn’t yet sure if he will depart for Perth in December or January.