The BNZ Crusaders have injected some significant experience into their backline for 2018, with midfielder Tim Bateman re-signing with the team and first five-eighth Mike Delany also joining the squad.

Both players began their Super Rugby careers ten years ago, Bateman with the Crusaders and Delany with the Highlanders, and both have returned to New Zealand rugby after playing a number of seasons overseas.

Bateman left the Crusaders in 2010 to play in Japan, then returned for three seasons with the Hurricanes before again heading to Japan in 2014 when his wife required treatment for multiple sclerosis.  In 2017 he made the move back home to Christchurch and played seven games for the BNZ Crusaders as the team marched towards the Super Rugby title.

Delany, who covers first five and fullback, spent the 2007 and 2012 seasons with the Highlanders and played for the Chiefs in between.  He also earned one cap for the All Blacks in 2009, against Italy in the end of year tour.  Delany has spent the last six seasons playing overseas, for the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, then Clermont Auvergne in France, and most recently the Newcastle Falcons in England.  He returned to New Zealand in time to join Bay of Plenty for this year’s Mitre 10 Cup season.

BNZ Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson says both are incredibly skilled players whose experience will be invaluable to the team.

“These are two very important signings for us, because of what they can bring in terms of skillset, versatility, leadership and a wealth of experience. 

“Tim was outstanding for us in 2017, both on and off-field.  He is a huge contributor to the group and really helps to set the standards for the team on both a performance and culture level. 

“Mike is another player who I know will not only fit in well here but also add to our environment.  He is a world class player who has a handy boot and a great reading of the game,” Robertson said.

“Tim and Mike are both playing outstanding rugby for their respective provincial teams, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty, and proving that they still have a heck of a lot to offer New Zealand rugby."

Delany said he was excited and honoured to be joining the current Super Rugby champions in 2018.

“I am loving being back on home soil and playing a New Zealand brand of rugby again.  So to join a team like the Crusaders, who are playing the best of that brand right now, is an awesome opportunity.  There are a few guys in the group who I have played with before, and some who I’ve played against, so it will be great to reconnect with them and to get to know the whole team.  I have long admired the professionalism at the Crusaders and their obvious ability to grow talent, so it will be an honour to be a part of that,” Delany said.

Bateman said he was thrilled to be able to re-sign with the BNZ Crusaders after such an enjoyable and successful 2017 season.

“Returning home to the Crusaders this year and being able to help them to a Super Rugby title was unreal, so I didn’t hesitate when the chance to re-sign came up.  We have such an enjoyable culture here that is clearly bringing out the best in everyone, so I am looking forward to getting back together with the team and getting the 2018 season underway,” Bateman said.

Bateman and Delany will both be involved in the Mitre 10 Cup semi-finals this afternoon - Delany playing for Bay of Plenty against Otago at 2:35pm in the second of the Championship semi-finals, and Bateman playing for Canterbury against North Harbour at 5:05pm in the first of the Premiership semi-finals.