• Help Support The Rugby Forum :

Thoughts on NZ Super Rugby Squads

nickdnz

International
TRF Legend
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
7,536
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Hurricanes

So it's a bit quiet for everyone in the SH at the moment, so I thought in anticipation of Super Rugby eventually starting back up I'd do a post. We used to do more extensive blogs on this (we may still) - but this will have to do for now.

Blues:

Notable losses: Mealamu, Woodcock, Brendan O'Connor, Luke Braid, Charles Piatau, Pita Ahki, Jimmy Cowan, Francis Saili, Callum Retallick, Simon Hickey, Daniel Bowden, Frank Halai

Notable pick-ups: Tanerau Latimer, Rene Ranger thoughts:

Thoughts:

Well, I can safely say I have never seen a weaker Blues squad on paper. I guess whether it's a squad of a lot of a massive amount of undiscovered potential or just a very weak squad is yet to be seen. But here are my concerns:

Their front row losses of Mealamu and Woodcock perhaps aren't so devastating considering the limited amount of Super Rugby they have managed to get through in recent years. They lost Angus Ta'avau who as a scrummager I felt was always very poor at SR level. Their pickups at props however were all pretty low profile and all reasonably young for props. This could go either way. Interesting they got Quintin McDonald to backup James Parsons. McDonald was tipped for big things a few seasons ago but fell off the map a little bit. Will be interesting, but I have to say they look to have one of the weaker front rows going around.

Locks: This is where I am a bit bemused. Outside of Bekhuis (who was once very promising in my opinion), and Tuipolutu who I rate as the third best lock in NZ, the Blues have picked up two very short locks, one of whom is Matenga who I have no idea why Umaga picked him up. They lost C Retallick who while a bit of a journeyman, was actually one of the hardest workers in that Blues pack. Considering Tuipolutu is coming back from injury I would have expected Umaga to have bolstered his lock ranks a bit better. I suspect we will see Luatua used at lock a fair bit, as their 6/8 stocks are actually very, very good. I think they are one locking accident away from a very rough season.

Loose-forwards: At 6/8 they have Kaino, Luatua and the most promising young player going around in Akira Ioane. Brilliant. Many people were shocked the Blues didn't get Karpick, but I could see some reason in it. However they have lost Luke Braid and Brendan O'Connor, their first two choices at openside. They have brought in Latimer (who I don't rate as much as either Braid or O'Connor but he's not bad by any means), while I'm still not sure if Blake Gibson has been given a fulltime contract. I know he is very, very highly rated in Blues territory, so maybe they want to stick with just that prospect and give him all the game time. It could be a very, very good loose forward selection.

Scrumhalf: It looks like Bryn Hall is their man going forward this season, cause they dropped last seasons other two halfbacks in Cowan and JGP. Outside of Hall the other halfbacks have virtually no SR experience, which considering Hall is still young I think it's a big risk. I would have kept JGP if I were Umaga (but we have him now so not complaining).

Flyhalf: Last season we didn't know who their #10 would be. Well bizarrely 22 year old Hickey was left totally out and so has now gone to France. Bowden has gone back to the UK. They didn't pick up Mitchell Hunt from the U20s who has instead gone to the Crusaders. So it is between West and McGahan (who I rate as a prospect) for the #10 shirt, and you have to think West has it wrapped up. If he gets injured, the Blues again are in for a very, very long season.

Centres: Had some big losses in the centres, but the return of Ranger and his potential combination with George Moala is pretty exciting. Reiko Ioane looks like a very exciting prospect too but you would imagine he will spend most of his time with the 7's team. Don't quite follow the logic of selecting Sa'u from Japan. Like all the positions, I can't help but feel the Blues are really lacking in depth.

Outside backs: Huge losses and in my view some pretty uninspiring replacements. Visiniga to me has looked pretty woeful with his decision making lately. It will of course be interesting to see how Matt Duffy fits in at either wing or fullback. Tivita Li is really the few of the really exciting prospects for me. Not that Nanai is bad, but there are better around, while Lam will most likely be away at the 7s, and I don't really rate at all. Very much a "run it streight" winger.

Overall view: If Umaga can do anything positive with this squad then I will be impressed. Just far too lacking in depth, experience, and I don't think this squad can really impliment a variety of game plans. I predict they will do worst of NZ's teams.



Crusaders:

Losses: Danie Carter, Richie McCaw, Colin Slade, Tom Taylor, Luke Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala

Gains: Marty McKenzie

Thoughts: They have actually gained a fair bit more than just McKenzie tbh, just no really high profile players.

Front Row: Well they have Owen Franks still, Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett. Not bad. They also just picked up Michael Alaalatoa who on the TH who I was impressed with for Manawatu. Even with Laulala gone, they have a handy propping department. Same hooking department from last season. They're still pretty set in the propping department.

Locks: Well, they lost Bird which sucks a bit for them. But Whitelock is extremely good, Barrett is extremely promising and Romano is extremely...an All Black. Jokes a side I think they will be fine here. Excited to see how Barrett comes on. Tupou is also very good and can play lock or 6, and Mitchell Dunshea looks like he could turn out pretty well.

Loose-forwards: Sums up my views on Blackadder. You lose McCaw. You bring in Tim Boys. I mean Tim Boys on form probably deserves a SR contract, but when you have Matt Todd as a first choice 7, surrounded by Kieran Read other good players, he brings in 31 year old Tim Boys instead of a prospect. He did in fairness pick up Peter Samu who looked a very busy operator for Tasman. Should still have a very good looseforward sets.

Scrumhalf: Drummond looks about ready to take over from Ellis. Drummond is an exciting prospect, and Andy Ellis has a lot of experience. Who is their other scrumhalf?

Flyhalves: Ugghh. For the first time in my life I think the Crusaders don't have an All Black 10 in their squad. How did they not manage to grab one of the exciting players out there? Tbf, Marty McKenzie could be a very good Super Rugby player, Richie Mo’unga as well. But neither look rady to be first choice to me. Ben Volavola is just a very random selection, especially considering a guy like Hickey leaves the country cause he can't find a team. Bizzare. I think it will be a real weakness, especially as I really don't rate Blackadder or Matson to run an effective backline if their life depended upon it.

Centres: Ryat Crotty is good and will be good in a leadership role. Freuan is constantly injured. Sean Wainui is not ready but a handy prospect. Not convinced with the Crusaders centres at all.

Outside backs: Hopefully we will see Macilai back to his devistating best as I really rate him. Nemani Nadolo is one of the best wingers in the world. I like the look of Jack Goodhue, while it seems Hunt may being looked at at 15. No Dagg will be interesting. I just predict we will see Blackadder push more and more centres out to the right wing, for his bosh approach.

Chiefs:

Losses: Messam (to 7s), Ben Tameifuna, Laulala (to injury), Mackintosh, Matt Symons, Liam Squire, Hosea Gear, Tim Nanai-Williams, Tom Marshall, Marty McKenzie

Pick-ups: Glen Fisiiahi, Karpick, Bird (around week 10...).

Thoughts: I think Nepo Laulala's injury is a very, very heavy loss for the Chiefs considering his quality and the fact they lost Tameifuna. Pauliasi Manu and Mitchell Graham arethe few really tested front rowers they have left, and I'd be a little bit concerned about their depth. Not the end of the world but a loss all the same. In Hika Elliot and Nathan Harris I think they will be fine at hooker, even with the loss of Quentin McDonald.

Locks: Well, Bird was another very shrewd signing and it's really disappointing he got injured. Retallick and Bird would have made one very giant and dominating locking department, but we should see him back I think just pas mid season. I rate Allardice quite highly. Outside of that they only have James Tucker, who is still pretty young (21), and I don't know how ready for Super Rugby he is. So I think we will see Retallick and Allardice starting pretty non-stop until Bird returns.

Loose-forwards: Strange to say considering they picked up Karpick, but on the face of it, the Chiefs loose-forwards look the worst of the franchises. Losing Liam Squire to the Highlanders, and Liam Messam to 7s - means they are left with some pretty untested and young prospects. Sam Cane is actually the second oldest and easily the most experienced flanker they have, and he's 24...It will be interesting. Renee tends not to pick bad players, so it is entirely possible I have just overlooked some players of real quality.

Scrumhalves: Kerr-Barlow, Weber, Pulu. Three young halfbacks who also are All Blacks. It is actually a bit ridiculous just the depth they have there, even with Pulu missing out due the Olympics. It will be very interesting who they start, as Kerr-Barlow just won a RWC with the All Blacks and has a very strong defensive game, while Brad Weber is extremely promising. Have no idea why at least one of didn't look to a team like the Blues or Crusaders, where there seems to be an easier pathway.

Flyhalves: Aaron Cruden returning could be massive for them. For me he is the Chiefs most important player, and has shown to be one of the best SR players around. Hopefully he has recovered fully from his injury. Damien McKenzie of course is one of the most exciting prospects in NZ rugby at the moment, but I think he will have to play from fullback (which despite his size, is a very adept defender from there).

Centres: Probably the best centre options in the competition for me. SBW will probably spend a fair amount of time playing 7s, but even with him gone you have Ngatai (who looked great last season), Tamanivula, and a pretty promising player in Anton Lienert-Brown.

Outside backs: No idea really what to expect. James Lowe is pretty special in my opinion, I would like to see him in the ABs picture providing his health is alright. I'm a bit surpirsed Toni Pulu has managed to get a contract, don't see him as a really exciting prospect. Chase Tiatia for me isn't really quick enough at the level to play winger, though he did have a good ITM Cup. Glenn Fasiihi is an interesting one, if I'm honest I don't watch enough league to make a really informed opinion of his. It certainly seems to me that the outside backs lack a lot of experience.

Overall view: I don't believe they have the squad to win the ***le this year - as they do have some pretty important losses. That said Renee is good at developing prospects, so I could be very wrong. I think they will finish third of NZ's teams again.

Hurricanes:

Losses: Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush

Pick Ups: Pita Ahki, Ngani Laumape

Front Row: Even with the loss of Ben Franks I think this Hurricanes team have a very promising front row. Rege Goodes is one of the outstanding loosehead prospects who I think sould he have a big season - may get an AB callup. I think Jeffery Toomaga-Allen may go back to being a TH, where he was best before injury and ABs coaching messing with him. Chris Eves is another good prop who showed some great form last season. Also I'm pleased we managed to get Loni Uhulia who I have been impressed with for a few seasons now, particularly his work in the loose. Ben May is a pretty experienced prop, don't really want to see him as the starter as he's getting on a bit now, but he can certainly do a job. We have one of the best hookers in the world in Dane Coles, and easily one of the best back ups in Motu Matu'u. Very solid platform.

Locks: Losing Thrush is quite a big loss. That said, Broadhurst was one of the outstanding players of last season. The other locking spot is quite open, with neither of Cridge, Lloyd or Abbot really making a stronger case over eachother. It is one area where we may be a bit exposed at depth.

Loose-forwards: Ardie will probably miss a fair amount of time because of the Olympics, which is a bit of a pain. I am a big fan of Gibbons however who I think is underrated, so not really worried. Brad Shields, Victor Vito, Blade Thompson are all very good players at this level. I am also excited by Vaea Fifita who was one of the players of the ITM Cup for me - big powerful player who was scoring length of the field tries. It will be interesting to see how is workrate is in SR against more physical and solid defences. In my view on of the best looseforwards in the competition.

Halfbacks: TJP, JGP and...TTT? No doesn't work. TJP is one of the best scrumhalves in the world, and certainly great at this level. JGP is a handy pickup from the Blues. A lot of people seem to really rate Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, the youngster from the U20s. I'm not so convinced at this stage, but I'll take him every day over Frae Wilson..

Fly Halves: Good depth. We have Beauden Barrett who is a very good opperator, and we also have Otere Black who I think has potential to be one of the best 10s in the country. James Marshall has shown he can also play there in a pinch.

Centres: This is the biggest concern for the Hurricanes. Totally new centres basically. Laumape seems to be rated highly as a convert, and isn't exactly new to rugby having played it at school (which he is only 22, so can't be that long ago). Haven't seen enough of his to buy into any hype either which way. Pita Ahki is a good pickup, physical centre but with a pretty good rugby brain. Then we have Willis Halaholo and Vince Aso - both physical centres. My concern really is if anything happens to Ahki, do the centres have the ability to distribute well from 12? I actually quite like the idea of moving Woodward into the centres - I think he could do a very good job there.

Outside backs: Julian Savea, Cory Jane, Milner-Skudder. Woodward and Marshall can fill in if need be. Canes are more then fine in the outside backs.

Highlanders:

Losses: Hardie, Manu

Gains: Squire

Front row: They lost Fia and it looks like they haven't picked Hames back up (which is surpirsing as he was only in the ABs training squad only a year or so ago). As always the Highlanders don't have the highest profile propping department, but I think losing Fia could hurt them. Probably not going to be dominating teams in the scrum. Dixon and Coltman are there again at hooker. You would have to think that if Coltman wants to be an All Black he really has to push on this season - as at 26 your no longer a prospect with a few rough edges, but just a limited player. He has to sort out his throwing asap. Ash Dixon has impressed me quite a bit - and I actually think he could do a job for the ABs if required. Will be interesting to see who they go with.

Locks: Much the same as last season. Did a good job for a low profile locking department. Don't see anyone as an All Black prospect (maybe Wheeler if there were a lot of injuries) but they have shown they can do a job against bigger names.

Looseforwards: Losing Manu is a very big loss, but I think Liam Squire is also a very big pickup for them. With Squire, Dixon, Hardie, Pryor and Luke Whitelock they have pretty good depth there. It is a pretty mobile loose trio and I think they can be very competitive.

Scrum Half: Seems Tanaka has been dropped to the wider training squad. Indication of some pretty good depth. Josh Renton is a highly rated prospect, and it's good that he'll be learning from the worlds best.

Flyhalves: I would imagine Lima Sopoaga finally has the jersey. He is apparently the best thing since sliced bread. I really rate Marty Banks, certainly as a backup. Parker I am indifferent about, but he at least has had experience at this level and his a handy goal kicker.

Centres: Fekitoa and Emery could make a very good combination. Richard Buckman was great last season and I'd expect to start at 12. Surprised they let Treeby go as he has been a very dependable player for them. Rob Thompson looked good for Canterbury, I think he could do well at this level as well. Haven't followed Matt Faddes too much so I can't really comment.

Outside backs: Naholo, Ben Smith, Osborne. Very, very dangerous back three as we saw last season. Tongia is a very handy wing replacement and has shown he is good at this level last season. Along with the Canes, probably the most dangerous back three in the competition.

Not sure they will do as well again this season - they showed last season that when they miss a couple of All Blacks they are not the same team. That said, they are probably the most settled of the NZ teams, so they could well continue their run of form.


Let me know your guys thoughts. Disagree with anything I've said so far? Any prospect you are excited about?
 
Last edited:

TRF_heineken

RIP #J9
Staff member
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 9, 2010
Messages
11,898
Country Flag

South Africa

Club or Nation

South Africa

Has their squads been named yet?

I want to do something similar for the SA teams, but I have no idea what the teams would look like. At the moment most of them have an extended squad of between 38 to 50 players in the training camp. But that doesn't necessarily mean that those guys will all make the final squad. A lot can still happen, and players can still transfer to other teams, like JJ Engelbrecht who signed a contract just last week to go and play in the NH after being part of the Bulls squad.
 

GoTheNaki

Bench Player
Joined
Nov 27, 2013
Messages
928
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Hurricanes

Has their squads been named yet?

I want to do something similar for the SA teams, but I have no idea what the teams would look like. At the moment most of them have an extended squad of between 38 to 50 players in the training camp. But that doesn't necessarily mean that those guys will all make the final squad. A lot can still happen, and players can still transfer to other teams, like JJ Engelbrecht who signed a contract just last week to go and play in the NH after being part of the Bulls squad.

Their wider squads are on their websites. I believe.
 

Kiwiwomble

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Messages
4,138
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Otago

didn't realise Tanaka was only in the wider training squad, interesting planning for the future
 

BobbyM

Academy Player
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
393
Country Flag

Scotland

Club or Nation

Hurricanes

Centres: This is the biggest concern for the Hurricanes. Totally new centres basically. Laumape seems to be rated highly as a convert, and isn't exactly new to rugby having played it at school (which he is only 22, so can't be that long ago). Haven't seen enough of his to buy into any hype either which way. Pita Ahki is a good pickup, physical centre but with a pretty good rugby brain. Then we have Willis Halaholo and Vince Aso - both physical centres. My concern really is if anything happens to Ahki, do the centres have the ability to distribute well from 12? I actually quite like the idea of moving Woodward into the centres - I think he could do a very good job there.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Couldn't agree more. Very worried about this area, as it doesn't look at the moment that we have a natural 13. I know Woodward played there a bit a couple of years ago for the Rebels, but having a young inside centre and and a new outside centre will put a lot of pressure on us defensively. I'm worried that especially in the first couple of games there'll be a lot of line breaks between 12, 13 and the wing.

Do people think the back 3 have been tested defensively? I know Smith/Nonu were excellent so unsure whether our back have the defensive capabilities for another ***le assault.
 

Kiwiwomble

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Messages
4,138
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Otago

given the concern re the midfield, should the canes have picked up someone like Treeby? wellington boy with 50 super caps...
 

nickdnz

International
TRF Legend
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
7,536
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Hurricanes

given the concern re the midfield, should the canes have picked up someone like Treeby? wellington boy with 50 super caps...

Fair point, can't diss the guy cause it's his birthday. But I think the logic is that the Canes know his upside. I think they want to go for potential. And as talented Treeby is at running hard at gaps, they probably have that at centre with current options. What they possibly needed was a more distributing centre option - which I feel they are pretty short
 

Kiwiwomble

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Messages
4,138
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Otago

fair points

kind of feel for him, he's the definition of "Proven" at super level and still only 27
 

TRF_stormer2010

Moderator
TRF Legend
Joined
Sep 7, 2009
Messages
8,560
Country Flag

South Africa

Club or Nation

Stormers

What is the Chief's backline likely to look like? Is Tim Nanai Williams out altogether this year?

Something like;

9 TKB
10 Cruden
11 Lowe
12 Ngatai
13 Tamanivula
14 ?
15 McKenzie

?

Would Andrew Horrell likely feature? Possibly at the expense of Tamanivula or would Lienert-Brown be the more likely centre with Tamanivula possibly on the wing? Bryce Heem?
 

TRF Mr Fish

Your Piscine Overlord
TRF Legend
Joined
May 29, 2007
Messages
4,172
Country Flag

New Zealand

Watching the Racing 92 v Highlanders game at the moment. Very entertaining!

Faddes and Squire are having good games.
 

austingtir

First XV
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Messages
2,711
Country Flag

New Zealand

Only saw these highlights. HL look promising considering that was alot of second stringers. Defence and ruck contest needs a heap of work though. IF the try by Osbourne and Naholo was anything to go by it bodes well.


https://youtu.be/iLzspJSNwr8


 

Regan

Academy Player
Joined
Apr 25, 2010
Messages
321
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Wellington

Only saw these highlights. HL look promising considering that was alot of second stringers. Defence and ruck contest needs a heap of work though. IF the try by Osbourne and Naholo was anything to go by it bodes well.


https://youtu.be/iLzspJSNwr8



I wouldn't say a lot of second stringers......they were only really without Smith and Smith (starting wise). Their defence and pack looks weak, really weak. If they don't fix that they're screwed, even with their attack.
 

austingtir

First XV
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Messages
2,711
Country Flag

New Zealand

I wouldn't say a lot of second stringers......they were only really without Smith and Smith (starting wise). Their defence and pack looks weak, really weak. If they don't fix that they're screwed, even with their attack.

Once buckman went off that was a pretty second string side atleast half or more. never even heard of half those guys that were playing.

The scrum was fine its just the rolling maul and flanks that they look really weak. Didnt see any lineouts but.....

Im not that concerned as the defence thing is perfectly normal for a first up warm up game. If its still like that a few rounds in then id be getting worried.


But yeah teams will be targeting them through the loosies and rolling maul all year if they have any sense.
 
Last edited:

ToddyLloyd

Academy Player
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Messages
9
I wouldnt be concerneed with our fowards yet either.

First hit out of the year and we werr up against a pretty good racing 92 team that has been playing together and rugby hardened

Landers to go back to back
 

back2back

Academy Player
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
181
Country Flag

New Zealand

Bucky out for the season ain't he?

Big loss that, but that Faddes bloke is a huge talent and now a big chance for him.

Wouldn't be surprised to see the Highlanders win it again after retaining the core of their squad and adding some talented ITM players, I expect them to at least make the play-offs or a Semi.

Blues will be interesting to watch this season, underwhelming on paper, but with Tana taking them and some of the raw talent they have in the likes of West and Ioane, I wouldn't be surprised to see them do well this season and be a "surprise package".

Chiefs will be solid as usual, especially up front and James Lowe has probably only improved, a big factor for them will be keeping Ngatai fit.

Crusaders look very weak in the backs. The worst I've seen in living memory to be fair. Their 9 and 10 combination is vastly inexperienced and inconsistent from what I've seen from Marty McKenzie. In the centres they're ok, Crotty and Fruean are solid, but lack creativity at times and Dagg is past his best, but can still offer some decent rugby. Nadolo easily provides the most excitement here. Crusaders will have to win a lot of their games up front and hope Marty and Drummond develop and have a good season.

The Canes are an exciting team as well. Some greats have left, Nonu and Smith, but the potential in this Wellington side is still great, I expect a strong season from them and a few more stars to rise, looking forward to watching Ardie Savea the most.

It's going to be such a tight pool, it's really difficult to call. If I had to I would say;

Highlanders
Hurricanes
Chiefs
Blues
Crusaders
 

nickdnz

International
TRF Legend
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
7,536
Country Flag

New Zealand

Club or Nation

Hurricanes

Canes have been taking some hammerings so far in preseason. Blues have been fielding a very strong team and have escaped largely without injuries - but they seem to be doing very well under Umaga to begin with. Can't wait for the season to start!
 

back2back

Academy Player
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
181
Country Flag

New Zealand

Canes have been taking some hammerings so far in preseason. Blues have been fielding a very strong team and have escaped largely without injuries - but they seem to be doing very well under Umaga to begin with. Can't wait for the season to start!

No Conrad Smith is a huge blow, he's irreplaceable., they will need some new leaders to step up eh!

I'm with you though, it's going to be an exciting interesting season, absolutely fizzing.
 

TRF Mr Fish

Your Piscine Overlord
TRF Legend
Joined
May 29, 2007
Messages
4,172
Country Flag

New Zealand

Just a heads up, the Chiefs v Blues pre season match is being broadcast on Sky Sport tomorrow (I think around 5PM).
 
Top