Hamilton’s Super Rugby team the Chiefs have confirmed their Super Rugby squad for the 2018 season which includes seven All Blacks and 31 players returning from the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Thirty-one players return from the 2017 season, including Jonathan Taumateine, Alex Nankivell, Aidan Ross, Fin Hoeata and Samisoni Taukei’aho who all impressed as squad replacement players in 2017.
The squad is boosted by seven current All Blacks, featuring stars Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie, Sam Cane, Nepo Laulala, Kane Hames, Nathan Harris and Anton Lienert-Brown who have all performed key roles throughout the season.
Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper is thrilled with the makeup of his new squad and the balance between experience and new players.
“We are very excited about the Squad we’ve assembled to the take the Chiefs forward into the 2018 season. There’s a high level of experienced players returning in 2018, which combined with the addition of new ambitious and enthusiastic young players completes a great group of men which we’re really looking forward to guiding, developing and working with. For five of these men, it’s a special day for them and their whanau being named in a Super Rugby team for the first time. We congratulate Luke, Tiaan, Tyler, Regan and Levi and their families on this wonderful achievement.
“I am also really happy with the coaching team we’ve assembled, with the addition of Tabai Matson completing a group who collectively brings a great deal of experience in Super Rugby, with plenty of technical and tactical knowledge. I am excited about leading this group of players, coaches and management team into the 2018 season.”
Sam Cane is also excited about a fresh look in 2018.
“I’m really excited about some of the changes we have in place. We have a new coaching/management team and new players coming in. I think it’s going to be a squad that’s new, fresh and exciting and I hope we can gel quickly and play some great Chiefs footy. We’re looking forward to it for sure.”
In addition to the high number of returning players for the Chiefs, the 2018 squad has six new players vying to make their Investec Super Rugby debuts for the team. These players are Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Luke Jacobson, Tiaan Falcon, Tyler Ardron, Regan Verney and Levi Aumua and add to the experience and depth across the squad.
A familiar face also returns with Chief #250 Marty McKenzie back after a stint down south with the Crusaders.
Waikato’s Luke Jacobson has progressed through the Chiefs Development programme and his squad berth caps off an impressive 2017 for the 20-year old, after captaining the New Zealand u20 side to the World Rugby Championship earlier this year as well as winning the Under 20’s Player of the Year accolade at the 2017 Chiefs Awards.
Luke was thrilled to be named in the team and is keen to get going for the upcoming season.
“It’s really exciting to be a Chief for 2018. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do as a little fella to play for my own region’s Super Rugby team, I’m really excited to be a part of it all. I can’t wait to be part of the environment and work on myself and get better, and hopefully get out on the field and get my first cap for the Chiefs.”
First Five-Eighth Tiaan Falcon was also part of New Zealand u20s winning campaign this season, and has gained experience playing in the Mitre 10 Cup with Hawkes Bay.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi returns to Chiefs Country after past experience playing for Rotorua Boys High School and the Chiefs Schools U18 teams. Tahuriorangi made the Maori All Blacks squad for the British & Irish Lions match and the current tour to Canada and France.
Regan Verney and Levi Aumua caught the coaches’ eye after impressive performances for Wellington and Tasman respectively in the Mitre 10 Cup. Verney hails from Taranaki and played for New Plymouth Boys High School, before going on to make his Mitre 10 Cup debut this year against Manawatu. Aumua is a powerful back who offers versatility, with the ability to play in the midfield and outside back roles. Aumua capped off an impressive Mitre 10 Cup campaign with a try in the Premiership final against Canterbury.
Canadian forward Tyler Ardron adds more international experience to the squad, having captained Canada at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, as well as playing for Ospreys in Wales. Ardron has integrated nicely to rugby in New Zealand, being part of the Bay of Plenty side who reached the Championship final of the Mitre 10 Cup. Ardron will again link up with forwards coach Neil Barnes whom he worked with during the World Cup with Canada.
24 of the 38 man squad are from the Chiefs region provincial unions of Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.
The Chiefs will kick off their 2018 campaign with a heated NZ derby away to fierce rivals the Crusaders. Their first game at home will see them take on the Bulls on Friday 16 March.
Chiefs 2018 Super Rugby squad
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
FIRST FIVE EIGHTH: