New Zealand Conference Preview

Before listening to our New Zealand Super Rugby conference podcast do your homework with our conference blog! A new season means there has been another plethora of squad changes, keep up with all the info right here!

Podcast links will be released below after it is released.

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Blues

Full squad:

Props: Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, James Lay, Marcel Renata, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi.
Hookers: Ray Niuia, Kurt Eklund, Soane Vikena.
Locks: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Sam Darry, Josh Goodhue, Jacob Pierce, Patrick Tuipulotu.
Loose forwards: Blake Gibson, Dillon Hunt, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Taine Plumtree, Tom Robinson, Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, Sam Nock, Jonathan Ruru.
Flyhalves: Otere Black, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer.
Centres: TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Tanielu Tele’a.
Outside backs: Caleb Clarke, AJ Lam, Jone Macilai-Tori, Emoni Narawa, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea.

New Faces:
Soane Vikena (Auckland HK), Nepo Laulala (PR Chiefs), James Lay (PR Auckland), Sam Darry (LK Canterbury),  Dillon Hunt (FL Highlanders), Taine Plumtree (FL Wellington),  AJ Lam (WG Auckland), Jone Macilai-Tori (WG Northland), Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (WG Taranaki), Zarn Sullivan (WG Auckland)

Losses:
Ezekiel Lindenmuth (PR Counties Manukau), Sione Mafileo (PR Chiefs), Joe Walsh (PR Southland), Luteru Tolai (HK North Harbour), Sam Caird (LK Waratahs), Aaron Carroll (LK Bay of Plenty), Tony Lamborn (FL Southland), Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa (FL Auckland), James Tucker (FL Brumbies),  Beauden Barrett (FH Suntory Sungoliath), Jack Heighton (FH North Harbour), Joe Marchant (CTR Harlequins), Matt Duffie (WG Honda Heat), Jordan Hyland (WG Northland), Jared Page (FB North Harbour), James Parsons (HK Retired)

Best 15:
Karl Tu’inukuafe, Kurt Eklund, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Otere Black, Caleb Clarke, TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Stephen Perofeta

Stocks are rising:
Stephen Perofeta – No more Beauden Barrett means Perofranchise can try to lock down the fullback (or 10) jersey.

Stocks are falling:
Big Sauce – It hurts me to say this one, but this fantasy lock just has too much competition this year.
Emoni Narawa – Narawa is no longer the new hot stuff. With the breakout seasons of Telea and Clarke, it’s hard to see him getting enough game time to be a solid fantasy pick unless he can stake his claim at the back.

Smokie:
Kurt Eklund – Originally only listed as injury cover for Vikena, his 2 year contract doesn’t start until 2022. You’d think the late retirement of Parson’s would mean he should have his contract upgraded. Was a standout last year.

Chiefs

Full squad:

Props: Sione Mafileo, Atu Moli, Ollie Norris, Reuben O’Neill, Aidan Ross, Angus Ta’avao.
Hookers: Nathan Harris, Bradley Slater, Samisoni Taukei’aho.
Locks: Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Josh Lord, Laghlan McWhannell, Tupou Vaa’i.
Loose forwards: Kaylum Boshier, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Pita Gus Sowakula, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Karpik, Simon Parker.
Halfbacks: Xavier Roe, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Brad Weber.
Flyhalves: Bryn Gatland, Rivez Reihana, Kaleb Trask.
Centres: Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Bailyn Sullivan, Quinn Tupaea.
Outside backs: Jonah Lowe, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Shaun Stevenson, Chase Tiatia, Sean Wainui.

New Faces:
Sione Mafileo (PR Blues), Nathan Harris (returned from injury), Josh Lord (LK Taranaki),  Kaylum Boshier (FL Taranaki), Simon Parker (FL Waikato), Xavier Roe (SH Waikato),  Bryn Gatland (FH Highlanders), Rivez Reihana (FH Waikato), Jonah Lowe (WG Hurricanes), Chase Tiatia (FB Hurricanes), Clayton McMillan (coach BOP)

Losses:
Robb Cobb (PR Waikato), Ryan Coxon (PR Tasman), Ross Geldenhuys (PR Bay of Plenty), Nepo Laulala (PR Blues), Donald Maka (HK Counties Manukau),  Michael Allardice (LK Toyota Verblitz), Tyler Ardron (LK France Castres),  Dylan Nel (FL Otago), James Thompson (FL Waikato), Adam Thomson (no8 Waikato), Leroy Carter (SH Bay of Plenty), Lisati Milo-Harris (SH Taranaki), Aaron Cruden (FH Kobelco Steelers), Tiaan Falcon (FH Toyota Verblitz), Orbyn Leger (CTR Counties Manukau), Tumua Manu (CTR Pau), Solomon Alaimalo (WG to Highlanders), Kini Naholo (injured) Sam McNicol (FB Hawke’s Bay)

Best 15:
Atu Moli, Nathan Harris, Angus Ta’avao, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Lachlan Boshier, Sam Cane, Pita Gus Sowakula, Brad Weber, Bryn Gatland, Sean Wainui, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Chase Tiatia, Damian McKenzie

Stocks are rising:
Nathan Harris – Missed last year with a rotator cuff repair, should be the first choice hooker but will have to share time with Taukei’aho and Bradley Slater.
Bryn Gatland – Come across to the Blues to surely start. He will have some competition from Kaleb Trask, but after the disaster that was last year, they will surely pick the more experienced player.
Etene-Nanai Seturo – Solomon Alaimalo is gone which leaves a spot free in the outside backs. Assuming he doesn’t leave for the olympics 7s campaign, Etene is finally due his big season.

Stocks are falling:
Lachlan Boshier – Stiff competition from Luke Jacobson should mean he doesn’t get the consistent game time for him to hold out the No.1 Flanker spot (and 3rd overall) with a 55pt AVG last year.
Samisoni Taukei’aho – Nathan Harris is back from injury, Bradley Slater was already pushing him for game time as the next big thing.

Smokie:
Lachlan McWhannell – Young lock that missed the full season last year when he was touted to have a breakout year. Will have to beat out either Tupou Vaa’i and Naitoa Ah Kuoi
Luke Jacobson – The man, the myth, the legend! If he is fit and healthy he could end the year as a starting All Black and a fantasy linchpin.
Chase Tiatia – The ridiculous talent that is Chase Tiatia, surely he can lock down a position somewhere in the backline?

Crusaders

Full squad:
Props: Joe Moody, Michael Alaalatoa, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Tamaiti Williams, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Fletcher Newell
Hookers: Codie Taylor, Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister
Locks: Scott Barrett (captain), Sam Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Quinten Strange, Luke Romano
Loose forwards: Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Ethan Blackadder, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sione Havili, Tom Sanders
Halfbacks: Bryn Hall, Mitchell Drummond, Ere Enari
Flyhalves: Richie Mo’unga, Brett Cameron, Fergus Burke
Centres: Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Dallas McLeod
Outside backs: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, George Bridge, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Manasa Mataele, Chay Fihaki, Isaiah Punivai

New Faces:
Fletcher Newell (Canterbury PR), Tamaiti Williams (Canterbury PR), Isaiah Punivai (Canterbury CTR), Chay Fihaki (Canterbury Utility Back), Sam Whitelock (Panasonic Wild Knights), Rene Ranger (WG/CTR Northland), Josh McKay (WG Highlanders)

Losses:
Harry Allan (Canterbury PR), Hugh Roach (Released HK),  Billy Harmon (Highlanders LK), Ethan Roots (North Harbour LK), Inga Finau (Auckland CTR), Fetuli Paea (Highlanders WG)

Best 15:
Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Mike Alaalatoa, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Whetu Douglas, Bryn Hall, Richie Mo’unga, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Will Jordan, David Havili.

Stocks are rising:
Tom Christie – Huge work rate, going to go to another level this year.

Stocks are falling:
Sevu Reece – So much competition! We expect him to start quickly with Bridge injured, but once he comes back he might go into an outside back rotation.
Braydon Ennor – Gone for the season with an ACL reconstruction.
Mitchell Dunshea & Quinten Strange – We had high hopes in 2020 but with the return of Sam Whitelock (pre-Aotearoa 2020) & Scott Barrett they could be waiting a long time for game time.

Smokies:
Ethan Blackadder – Was due for a big season last year before having a shoulder recon in Oct 2019 then meniscus op after Aotearoa rd 4 he missed the bulk of the year.

Highlanders

Full squad:
Props: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Jeff Thwaites, Ayden Johnstone, Ethan De Groot, Jermaine Ainsley, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Hohneck
Hookers: Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ricky Jackson
Locks: Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Manaaki Selby-Rickit , Bryn Evans
Loose forwards: Shannon Frizell, Sione Misiloi, James Lentjes, Billy Harmon, Kazuki Himeno, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Teariki Ben- Nicholas, Liam Squire
Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava
Flyhalves: Josh Ioane, Mitchell Hunt
Centres: Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Patelesio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Fetuli Paea, Scott Gregory
Outside backs: Jona Nareki, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vilimoni Koroi, Solomon Alaimalo, Sam Gilbert, Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngatungane Punivai

New Faces:
Freedom Vahaakolo (Otago WG, short-term contract for Sam Gilbert), Sean Withy (Otago BKR), Jack Regan (Otago LK + Ulster & Leinster), Caleb Makene (FB Hawke’s Bay), Jermaine Ainsley (PR Rebels), Josh Hohneck (PR Otago), Ricky Jackson (HK returned from injury), Bryn Evans (LK Hawke’s Bay), Billy Harmon (FL Crusaders), Liam Squire (FL Red Hurricanes), Fetuli Paea (Crusaders), Solomon Alaimalo (WG/FB Chiefs), Connor Garden-Bachop (returned from injury), Sam Gilbert (WG Otago but injured), Vilimoni Koroi (FB Koroi), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Toulon), Tony Brown (Coach from assistant Coach)

Losses:
Sam Gilbert (ACL injury), Kazuki Himeno (stuck in Japan), Josh Iosefa-Scott (PR Waikato), Conán O’Donnell (PR Counties Manukau), Nathan Vella (BOP), Will Tucker (LK returned to Otago), Jack Whetton (LK Waratahs), Dillon Hunt (FL Blues), Zane Kapeli (FL Bay of Plenty), Slade McDowall (FL returned to Otago), Jesse Parete (FL Canon Eagles), Bryn Gatland (FH Chiefs), Rob Thompson (CTR Toyota Verblitz), Teihorangi Walden (CTR Taranaki), Tima Fainga’anuku (WG Tasman), Josh McKay (WG Crusaders), Tevita Nabura (WG Counties Manukau), Kirisi Kuridrani (FB Counties Manukau), Aaron Mauger (released).

Best 15:
Ayden Johnstone, Ash Dixon, Siate Tokolahi, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Aaron Smith, Josh Ioane, Jona Nareki, Patelesio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop, Solomon Alaimalo

Stocks are rising:
Billy Harmon – I’d expect he is the openside flanker to star the season. The former Crusader will be giving it everything to try and claim the starting jersey.
Soloman Alaimalo – “Will he play at fullback or on the wing? The Highlanders have indicated that will be given the chance to nail down the No 15 jersey.” A Draft Rugby favourite, need we say more?

Stocks are falling:
Shannon Frizell – So much depth with Liam Squire and Kazuki Himeno both coming in.
Mitch Hunt – Hard to see him holding the fullback jersey again with Solomon Alaimalo coming in. Having said that he was never a huge fantasy scorer.
Vilimoni Koroi – Named in the NZ 7’s squad so we probably won’t see much of him.

Smokie:
Freedom Vahaakolo – Seven tries and was voted NZRPA Mitre 10 Young Player of the Year by his peers. Only signed as injury cover but you get the feeling the young man has serious talent.
Manaaki Selby-Ricket – Apparently showing his huge engine in preseason, I think a real chance to log some minutes and could be a great fantasy second rower.
Kazuki Himeno – Word is he will be in to start the season. World class player who can cover the whole back row. He is powerful over the ball and dangerous with ball in hand. We expect him to see plenty of game time.

Hurricanes

Full squad:
Props: Tevita Mafileo, Xavier Numia, Tyrel Lomax, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, Fraser Armstrong.
Hookers: Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli, Asafo Aumua.
Locks: Isaia Walker-Leawere, Scott Scrafton, Kane Leaupepe, James Blackwell, Liam Mitchell.
Loose forwards: Ardie Savea, Brayden Iose, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Vaea Fifita, Reed Prinsep, Gareth Evans.
Halfbacks: Luke Campbell, Jamie Booth, Jonathan Taumateine.
Flyhalves: Simon Hickey, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Ruben Love.
Centres: Peter Umaga-Jensen, Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso, Billy Proctor, Danny Toala.
Outside backs: Wes Goosen, Jordie Barrett, Salesi Rayasi, Julian Savea, Lolagi Visinia, Pepesana Patafilo.

New Faces:
Brayden Iose (No8 Manawatu), Luke Campbell (SH BOP), Simon Hickey (FH Edinburgh),  Pepesana Patafilo (WG Wellington), Salesi Rayasi (WG returned from NZ 7s), Julian Savea (WG Toulon), Lolagi Visinia (WG Hawke’s Bay), Ruben Love (FB Wellington)

Losses:
Ben May (PR Taranki), Murphy Taramai (FL North Harbour), TJ Perenara (SH Red Hurricanes), James Marshall (injured), Fletcher Smith (FH Shining Arcs), Ben Lam (WG Bordeaux), Jonah Lowe (WG Chiefs), Kobus van Wyk (WG Leicester Tigers), Chase Tiatia (FB Chiefs)

Best 15:
Tevita Mafileo, Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Scott Scrafton, Reed Prinsep, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Ardie Savea, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Salesi Rayasi, Ngani Laumape, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Wes Goosen, Jordie Barrett

Stocks are rising:
Jamie Booth – No TJ means the year of Booth is here! Some questions around his fitness following his broken leg (I reckon April return).
Salesi Rayasi – No BLAM means they need a left winger. His competition is none other than Savea but as he ages it could be Rayasi’s year.

Stocks are falling:
Vince Aso – A Draft Rugby favourite, it is hard to see him getting to much time with Peter Umaga-Jensen becoming an All Black, as well as a fit again Laumape and even Billy Proctor seemingly been favoured to play in the centres. Maybe he can find his home again on the wing?

Smokie:
Devan Flanders – A weapon of 6, scored well when he got his chance last year. Will have a fight on his hand to get game time off Reed Prinsep (or Gareth Evans)
Kane Le’aupepe – The Somoan international has had a run of injuries making it hard for him to hold down a regular spot in the Hurricanes, but at his best he is a quality SR starter that offers something different to incumbents James Blackwell & Scott Scrafton.
Jonathan Taumateine – Probably not on anyone’s radar yet, but with TJ leaving and Booth’s injury, he could be a great late pickup in your draft as a likely starter over his only other competition Luke Campbell.

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Written by Harrison Dale