Hassler and van der Merwe Sign with Gil-teams
Source: Glasgow Warriors
Fans of the Gil-teams (Gil-clubs? Gil-squads? I’m not sure what one sounds best) received an extra special Kitmas gift as an elite Canadian winger joined their squad. Austin was first to make their announcement as Jeff Hassler departed the reigning Champions to join the Gilgronis. After months of speculation, the LA Giltinis have finally announced the signing of Canada’s all-time leading try scorer DTH van der Merwe.
After stepping away from the game for a moment, Hassler signed with the Seattle Seawolves on May 10th, 2019. Hassler became an integral part of the Seawolves squad as they made their push for the MLR Shield, scoring one try in three regular season games. Hassler would add another try in two playoff games as the Seawolves claimed back-to-back Championships. Unfortunately, Hassler was limited to just one game in 2020 due to injury.
The Championship run paved the way for Hassler to return to the National Team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign. Over the course of his international career, Hassler has amassed 7 tries in 27 caps.
Hassler joins a Gilgronis squad that is still rebuilding following a winless 2019 campaign. Austin made strides in 2020, finally getting a notch in the win column as they defeated their in-state rival Houston SaberCats to claim the Texas Cup. During this off-season, new head coach Sam Harris has added Hassler and USA Eagle Bryce Campbell to a solid group of backs that already includes Marcello Torrealba, Will Magie, Kurt Morath, Rodrick Waters, Zinzan Elan-Puttick, and former All Black Frank Halai. Hassler will also be joining flanker Moe Abdelmonem as the Canadian representation in the Texan capital.
Of those players, the current group of outside backs is made up of Hassler, Waters, Halai on the wing and Elan-Puttick at fullback. It will be interesting to see how the rest of Harris’ squad shapes out but Hassler should be locked into a starting 11 or 14 jersey.
DTH van der Merwe retired from international rugby following his 4th Rugby World Cup in 2019. The legendary winger concluded his career with 61 caps and the Canadian record for test tries with 38 (14 tries ahead of Winston Stanley in 2nd). In May 2020, van der Merwe concluded his second stint with the Glasgow Warriors of the Pro 14.
The Warriors are another team that van der Merwe holds the try scoring record for as he racked up 54 tries in 123 appearances. In the last decade, no one scored more tries in the Pro 14 than van der Merwe and scored the 2nd most tries in the competition’s history, just trailing Tommy Bowe. Van der Merwe’s resume both internationally and with club is simply phenomenal and firmly places him in the discussion of the greatest Canadian players of all-time.
The Giltinis have only announced five players so far, but promise to keep the announcements rolling up until Christmas Day. Van der Merwe is only the second back to be announced after centre Watson Filikitonga, who the Giltinis selected 14th overall in the MLR Draft. There will be a familiar face for van der Merwe in Hollywood as the club announced that his Glasgow Warriors teammate Adam Ashe will also be joining the club. Former Wallaby Dave Dennis, and Colorado Raptors prop Blake Rogers round out the announced signings.
Ultimately, the Giltinis squad is of to a promising start. The rumour mill has been working overtime with big names linked to this squad, so it will be interesting to see how the roster shapes up.
In van der Merwe, the Giltinis will receive one of the deadliest finishers in the game. Van der Merwe’s speed and strength on the wing will cause a nightmarish matchup for many opposing wingers in MLR. As a bonus, the Giltinis could receive plenty of marketing benefits in a global superstar that understands what it was like to grow up playing rugby in North America.
Hassler and van der Merwe are the 18th and 19th Canadians to sign with an American MLR team for the 2021 season:
Moe Abdelmonem (Austin Gilgronis-Flanker)
Jeff Hassler (Austin Gilgronis- Winger)
Hank Stevenson (Dallas Jackals-Lock)
Nik Hildebrand (Houston SaberCats-Prop)
Liam Murray (Houston SaberCats-Prop)
Robbie Povey (Houston SaberCats-Flyhalf/Fullback)
Crosby Stewart (Houston SaberCats-Scrumhalf
DTH van der Merwe (LA Giltinis-Winger)
Josh Larsen (New England Free Jacks- Lock)
Kyle Baillie (NOLA Gold- lock/back row)
Eric Howard (NOLA Gold- Hooker)
Doug Fraser (Old Glory DC- Centre/Wing)
Ciaran Hearn (Old Glory DC- Centre)
Matt Heaton (Rugby ATL- Flanker)
Conor Keys (Rugby ATL- Lock)
Quinn Ngawati (Rugby United New York-Centre)
Josh Thiel (San Diego Legion- Centre)
Brock Staller (Seattle Seawolves- Winger)
Nick Taylor (drafted by Seattle Seawolves- Centre)