BLUES – TROUBLE AT NO 10
After losing prized recruit Otere Black to a season-ending ACL injury, Blues coach Tana Umaga has turned to Wellington’s Daniel Kirkpatrick to fill the vacant third first five-eighth spot.
Kirkpatrick, who made six appearances for the Blues in 2010, will compete with promising playmakers Stephen Perofeta and Bryn Gatland for the No. 10 jersey.
North Harbour’s Mike Tamoaieta, Tasman’s Isaac Salmon and Southland’s Matt Johnson have picked up their first Super Rugby contracts after impressing in the Mitre 10 Cup, while New Zealand under-20 representatives Caleb Clarke, Dalton Papalii and Tamati Tua have transitioned through the Blues development programme.
Their squad features 10 current All Blacks.
Arrivals: Leni Apisai, Isaac Salmon, Mike Tamoaieta, Dalton Papalii, Glenn Preston, Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Matt Johnson, Tamati Tua, Caleb Clarke.
Departures: Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Brandon Nansen, Epalahame Faiva, Sam Prattley, Billy Guyton, Piers Francis, Ihaia West, Matt Vaega, Declan O’Donnell, Rene Ranger.
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CHIEFS – NEW ERA BEGINS
No Aaron Cruden. No Tawera-Kerr Barlow. No James Lowe. No Stephen Donald. The list goes on.
But despite losing such quality, new Colin Cooper has still managed to compile a competitive squad, with 31 of the 38-man squad returning from last season.
Hurricanes halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is possibly their best signing, deciding to step out of TJ Peranara’s shadow in search of some game time, while midfielder Levi Aumua was a devastating ball runner for Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup and will definitely be one to watch.
After getting limited game time with the Crusaders Marty McKenzie has decided to reunite with little bro Damian McKenzie at the Chiefs, while there’s some international flavour in the forward pack following the addition of Tyler Ardron, who captained Canada at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Arrivals: Fin Hoeata, Luke Jacobson, Tyler Ardron, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Tiaan Falcon, Regan Verney, Levi Aumua.
Departures: Hika Elliot, Tom Sanders, Michael Leitch, James Tucker, Tawera Kerr- Barlow, Finlay Christie, Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald, James Lowe, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia.
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CRUSADERS – BLACKADDER COMES FORTH
Expect the Super Rugby champions to put a familiar looking team out on to the paddock in 2018, with coach Scott Robertson naming just seven new players in a squad that includes 12 current All Blacks.
The most intriguing addition is that of one-cap All Black first five-eighth Mike Delany, who returned to play for Bay of Plenty after six seasons abroad. The 35-year-old provides a more experienced alternative to young incumbents Richie Mo’unga and Mitchell Hunt.
New Zealand under-20 standouts Braydon Ennor and Will Jordan will inject some excitement in the backline, while there is a notable name in the forward pack, with Todd Blackadder’s son, Tasman flanker Ethan Blackadder, also earning his first Super Rugby contract.
Other newbies include Billy Harmon and Jack Stratton, while Tom Sanders has returned from the Chiefs.
Arrivals: Ethan Blackadder, Mike Delany, Braydon Ennor, Billy Harmon, Will Jordan, Tom Sanders, Jack Stratton.
Departures: Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Jed Brown, Leon Fukofuka, Sione Fifita, Digby Ioane, Marty McKenzie, Sean Wainui.
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HIGHLANDERS – PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
New Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger has named eight new faces in his squad for the 2018 season, including Canterbury wing Josh McKay and three Tasman Makos.
Makos forwards Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson and Tyrel Lomax join McKay, while Counties prop Kalolo Tuiloma, Counties outside back Tevita Nabura and Wellington midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen are also new.
Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane is the other new player, and will cover Lima Sopoaga and Fletcher Smith in the No. 10 jersey.
Arrivals: Josh McKay, Tevita Nabura, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Josh Ioane, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Kalolo Tuiloma, Tyrel Lomax
Departures: Shane Christie, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Malakai Fekitoa, Craig Millar, Joe Wheeler, Gareth Evans, Hayden Parker, Patrick Osborne, Jason Emery.
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HURRICANES – AUMUA STEPS UP WITH THE CANES
Is there a squad in Super Rugby more exciting than the 2018 Hurricanes?
Throw promising front rowers Asafo Aumua and Alex Fidow into a team already stacked with All Blacks stars such as Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Danes Coles, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape, Nehe Milner-Skudder and a certain former AB with a point to prove, Julian Savea, and you should have all the ingredients to mount a series challenge.
The Hurricanes have, of all places, looked to Melbourne for much of their recruitment, signing Jackson Garden-Bachop, Toby Smith and Murray Douglas out of the Rebels.
Wellington’s Gardon-Bachop and Ihaia West – the latter swapping in for Otere Black – are handy additions and will ensure there is decent back-up to Barrett, while flanker Gareth Evans joins the loose forward mix after previously turning out for the Highlanders.
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