After bringing you the best overseas provincial signings it only would be right to look back on Irish rugby imports who did not exactly have the desired impact that was hoped for. So, who should have been stopped at customs and sent back to where they came from before they trotted onto a rugby field in Ireland?
The criteria for the selection is based only on the player’s performances for any of the provinces. He can be internationally qualified for Ireland but must be born outside the island.
1. CJ Van der Linde, Leinster/ South Africa
The big Springbok prop, who could play either side of the scrum, could argue that he is unlucky to be selected as he did play well for the Blues when he was fit. Van der Linde had a persistent toe injury which meant that he spent more time on the injury table than on the RDS turf and if he was on the field he would be hobbling along on one leg.
Check out this flying headbutt from the Springbok:
Dishonourable Mentions: Julien Brugnaut (Munster) Fosi Pala’amo (Leinster) Simon Kerr (Munster)
2. Ethienne Reynecke, Connacht
The South African born hooker’s time out West was characterised by giving away penalties and poor throwing. He made 44 appearances for Connacht, mostly on the losing side. When he returned to South Africa in 2013, it was no great loss for the Connacht pack.
Dishonourable Mentions: Henry Vermaas (Leinster) Frik Venter (Connacht) Andy Long (Munster)
3. Joeli Veitayaki, Ulster/ Fiji
Tighthead prop is arguably the most competitive spot for the ‘biggest dud signing from overseas award’ as the IRFU continually search to solve Ireland’s tighthead headache. I have decided to go for Ulster’s man mountain Joeli Veitayaki. He was signed the season after Ulster won the European Cup. The Fijian’s performances were not of international standard to say the least. When Veitayaki left after one season, many fans around Ravenhill did not shed a tear, except the local takeaway who reportedly had a plaque revealed in honour of the enormous Fijian due to his vociferous appetite. There is a reason why the former Fiji Captain was the heaviest player ever to play Test rugby.
Dishonourable Mentions: Peter Borlase (Connacht, Munster) Clint Newland (Leinster) Michael Bent (Leinster)
4. Steven Sykes, Leinster
The South African lock was brought to Ireland as a special project player. Anyone who had seen the second row play Super Rugby knew that Sykes looked to be the answer to Leinster’s problems in the engine room of the pack. However, Sykes was the archetypal sick note as he was always out of action. After only four appearances and three months in Dublin, the South African headed back to Natal.
Dishonourable Mentions: Tom Bowman (Munster) Bryce Williams (Leinster) Ryan Strudwick (Connacht)
5. Aaron Freeman, Leinster/ USA
Freeman lumbered about Donnybrook putting in some very ineffective showings in front of the small attendances of Leinster rugby during the last century. He was a 6ft 9 inches test international lock which says a lot about US rugby during the 1990s.
Dishonourable Mentions: David Pusey (Munster) Chris Wyatt (Munster)
6. Owen Finegan, Leinster/ Australia
The Wallaby was a magnificent blindside flanker for the ACT Brumbies in his heyday and also was a 1999 World Cup winner to boot. However, by the time Finegan pitched up in Dublin it is safe to say he was well past his sell by date. The number six’s most notable contribution was to score a try against Ulster in the last ever game at Lansdowne Road before it was redeveloped. Although nicknamed ‘The Melon’ because of the shape of his head, his one season with the Blues was certainly far from sweet.
Dishonourable Mentions: Justin Melck (Munster)
7. Tamaiti Horua, Ulster
The Australian played all across the back row; not very well. To be fair Horua only made two appearances for the Northern Province in an injury ravaged season at Ravenhill so no one knows if he was any good. He eventually moved back to Australia to play with the Western Force.
Dishonourable Mentions: Tony Goldfinch (Leinster)
8. Nick Williams, Munster
Big Nick was named in the best overseas signings for his performances with Ulster, but when the Junior All Black was plying his trade at Thomond Park he earns his place in this line up. Williams had a wonderful debut for the Reds scoring a hat-trick against the Dragons. After that it was all downhill for Williams at the province. He spent a lot of time playing in the AIL before he eventually left for Italy and found his perfect match for his pathetic performances in Aironi.
Dishonourable Mentions: Grant Webb (Ulster)
9. Toby Morland, Munster
The scrum half signed for Munster on the 11th June 2009 on a six-month contract. He won 4 caps and scored one try in an unproductive, uneventful time in Limerick. He returned to New Zealand in November 2009.
Dishonourable Mentions: Dom Malone (Munster)
10. Eddie Hekenui, Leinster
Masterful place kicking, controlled punting and an ability to set any backline on fire. These were all abilities that Leinster fly half Eddie Hekenui did not have. He regularly made mistakes when he was on the field and was never dependable in front of the posts. He was eventually dubbed ‘Eddie Heineken’ as result of his fondness of Dublin’s nightlife.
Dishonourable Mentions: Jeremy Manning (Munster) Matt Leek (Leinster)
11. Anton Pitout, Munster
The South African Sevens player nearly lost his leg in a horrendous injury back in 2005 and his time with the Southern Province was as effective as a one-legged man on a rugby field. After five rubbish games, the speedster flew back to South Africa. His most memorable moment is being photographed in a picture when Rory Best had a full head of hair.
Dishonourable Mentions: Fetu’u Vanikolo (Connacht)
12. Rob Dewey, Ulster/ Scotland
Scotland looked to have found a gem in Dewey when he bulldozed his way through Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll in an Edinburgh win against Leinster in the Heineken Cup. However, when the inside centre moved to Belfast he was, to put it bluntly, rubbish! The most abiding image in a white jersey was his weak one armed tackle on Mike Tindall when Gloucester stuffed Ulster.
Dishonourable Mentions: Jean De Villiers (Munster) Diogo Mateus (Munster)
13. Will Chambers, Munster
He was a part of the brilliant Queensland Reds team that won the Super Rugby title. He was picked up on a short-term deal. Chamber played eight times in an unspectacular period for Munster and he eventually left after four months to play rugby league in Australia.
Dishonourable Mentions: Jason Jones Hughes (Munster) Jonny Hepworth (Leinster)
14. Clinton Huppert, Munster
Another fine recruit by then coach, Alan Gaffney. He never liked being criticised about his time in Munster.
“Enough is enough you no talent tossers. I am sick to death of your articles over the last few years bagging me and my time in Munster. It seems to me your lack of reporting talent is reflected in the fact that in all your criticism of my time with Munster you have failed to speak with the then doctor and realise I sustained a serious ankle injury eight weeks into my time there . . . It seems the fact your country like all the European nations, bar maybe France, are so lacking in talent that you all have to rely heavily on overseas (esp NZ) talent to bolster your ranks . . . And when things don’t quite work out all you can do is write bullsh** articles about people . . . If I had the money I would hop a plane and come and kick your teeth in personally.”
Huppert struggled to kick a rugby ball so I highly doubt he would be able to kick in someone’s teeth. He was given 25 grand to go back to New Zealand. Not bad for a guy who played for Shannon’s seconds in the AIL.
Dishonourable Mentions: Troy Nathan (Connacht)
15. Christian Cullen, Munster/ New Zealand
Perhaps the greatest fullback ever. Cullen was a mainstay for the All Blacks. But when he came to Munster the great man was a shadow of his former self. He pulled on the red jersey 44 times which is a surprise as he seemed to be injured so often. He retired in 2007 and Munster fans were left to think of what could have been.
Check out possibly Cullen’s greatest try ever:
Dishonourable Mentions: Clinton Schifcofske (Ulster)
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.
Don’t forget to check out our team of the greatest overseas signings for the Irish provinces.