Familiar names with unfamiliar faces, 42 new recruits, nine sets of brothers including two twins are included in the 2018 Investec Super Rugby squads named by their clubs today.
A total 190 professional players have been signed for the new season – 38 for each of the New Zealand Super Rugby clubs – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.
There are nine sets of siblings – the Barretts, Beauden and Jordie (Hurricanes), and Scott (Crusaders); Rieko and Akira Ioane (Blues), Anton (Chiefs) and Daniel (Highlanders) Lienert-Brown; Damian and Marty McKenzie (Chiefs), Dan (Highlanders) and Kara (Blues) Pryor, Ardie and Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Sam (Crusaders) and Luke (Highlanders) Whitelock and twins Peter (Hurricanes) and Thomas (Highlanders) Umaga-Jensen and Jack (Crusaders) and Josh (Blues) Goodhue.
Thirteen of those named today were part of the World Champion winning New Zealand Under 20 side – Dalton Papalii, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke and Tamati Tua (Blues), Tiaan Falcon and Luke Jacobson (Chiefs), Alex Fidow, Asafo Aumua and Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes), Braydon Ennor and Will Jordan (Crusaders) and Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Josh McKay (Highlanders).
Among some of the unfamiliar faces, are some names very familiar to New Zealand rugby – the more well-known of them being Blues brothers Akira and Rieko Ioane, sons of former Black Fern Sandra Wihongi, Caleb Clarke (son of All Blacks Eroni Clarke) has been picked up by the Blues, Jackson Garden-Bachop (son of All Black Stephen Bachop) who has been picked by the Hurricanes after an outstanding Mitre 10 Cup season, Bryn Gatland (son of Wales and British & Irish Lions Coach Warren) returns to the Blues, while Ethan Blackadder, who has been plying his trade with solid season at the Tasman Makos, has been signed by the Crusaders, the team his father Todd, had previously coached. Pari Pari Parkinson, nephew of Maori All Black and Bay of Plenty legend Matua Parkinson, is a new signing for the competition and the Highlanders.
Caleb Clarke gets another mention in the record books – at 18 he will enter the 2018 season as the youngest contracted player, with Tasman stalwart and captain, Alex Ainley returning for another season with the Highlanders, and who at 36, is at the other end of the birthday list. Another seasoned veteran – Mike Delany, who last played Super Rugby in 2011 for the Chiefs, has come back from a stint overseas to play a critical role for Bay of Plenty in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup, and earning himself a seat at the Crusaders’ table.
New Zealand Rugby Head of Rugby Neil Sorensen congratulated all the coaching and management teams and all 42 new players.
The Blues have signed eight rookies, the Chiefs and Hurricanes, 10 each, the Crusaders, five, and the Highlanders nine new players
. “There is no doubt that New Zealand talent is some of the most exciting on the planet. Congratulations to all those picked for the first time – this is a special time for them, their families and mates.
“We clearly saw some players playing out of their skin during this year’s Mitre 10 Cup and it’s awesome to see them force their way into Super Rugby clubs for next year.
“With two new coaches in Colin Cooper (Chiefs) and Aaron Mauger (Highlanders), a new draw and a whole lot of new talent, the class of 2018 is looking exciting.
“Next year’s squads also will also be watched closely by All Blacks, All Blacks Sevens, NZ Under 20 and Maori All Blacks selectors – aside from wanting to wrestle the championship title off the juggernaut that is the Crusaders, there’s plenty to play for,” Sorensen said.
The 2018 season officially kicks off on 17 February but the first round with New Zealand teams in action is in Round two with two derby matches booked.