Connect with us

Super Rugby

2023 Squad Announced



A returning Crusader, a local boy done good, and a few fresh out-of-towners – here’s your first look at the Crusaders squad for 2023. These boys will represent the club and the history of the franchise when they take the field this year, on the hunt for points and trophies.


The 38-strong playing group are made up of familiar faces and some brand-new talent, assembling at Rugby Park in Christchurch in early December, all set for their first fixture on 24 February at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.


Exciting news for Canterbury fans is the full contract awarded to hooker George Bell. The 20-year-old (turning 21 less than a month before the Crusaders first game of the season) has been on the road to Super Rugby selection since joining the Crusaders Academy. His performances for Canterbury in the NPC in 2022 impressed selectors and fans alike.


Equally promising is first five Taha Kemara, a Waikato local in his second year out of high school who’s plied his trade so far with Waikato in the NPC. The 19-year-old has been on the Crusaders radar for some time and his move south brings depth and youth to the squad.


Tasman Makos star Macca Springer has been awarded his first Super Rugby contract with the Crusaders for the 2023 season. The 19-year-old outside back spent some of 2022 as a development player with the Crusaders and is part of the Crusaders Academy.


Macca Springer in action for the Mako – image: Getty


Long-time Crusaders fans will recognise the name Willi Heinz from his time playing in the red and black from 2010-2015, and the team is excited to welcome him back into the fold in 2023 as half back. He shot over to England to play for Gloucester and the Worcester Warriors before earning a birth-rite spot in the England national team in 2019 and winning 19 caps at international level – including facing the All Blacks at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.


Samoan international and former Blues player Melani Nanai returns to home soil for a stint as outside back with the Crusaders after spending the last few seasons with the Worcester Warriors in the UK. Keen watchers will remember his 64 caps for the Blues between 2015-2019.


Wellington local Pepesana Patafilo joins the red and black after making his Super Rugby debut with the Hurricanes in 2021. The outside back made four appearances for the Samoa U20 side in 2015, and impressed with his foot work and speed on Wellington’s way to their first NPC title in 22 years.


Scott Robertson, Crusaders Head Coach, said the 2023 squad represented a mix of old and new talent and was feeling confident ahead of the season kicking off in February.


“We have a good balanced squad this year, with some seasoned veterans and an incredibly hard-working new crew of Crusaders,” Robertson said.


“I’m proud of the group we’ve put together this season, and I know they’re all ready and excited to represent the Crusaders region on the big stage.”


Colin Mansbridge, Crusaders CEO, said the coaching group was stacked with exceptional people and “New Zealand’s, if not the world’s most successful club coach”.


“The management and medical group are immensely professional and caring, and we all work hard together to deliver a positive and hardworking culture – winning rugby is just the result,” Mansbridge said.


“The mixture of enthusiasm and experience in the squad is great and we can’t wait to see the growth of the group.”

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby

Super Rugby

Family the motivator for Whitelock’s French move



The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season will be Samuel Whitelock’s last with the Crusaders.


The veteran Crusader and All Black has taken up a two-year deal with Section Pau in the South of France, where he’ll link up with younger brother Luke Whitelock who joined the Top 14 club in 2019.


“Hannah, the kids and myself are going to head to France to play with my little brother Luke,” Whitelock said.


“I’ve had the privilege of playing with family for Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks at different stages and this opportunity was too good to pass up.”


Whitelock debuted for Canterbury in 2008 and the Crusaders in 2010. He is Crusader #142 and has currently played 176 games for the franchise – second only to Wyatt Crockett (203). He’s been a part of six championship campaigns and captained the side for several seasons.


“I want to say thank you to everyone for their support through the years, it’s been absolutely immense,” Whitelock said.


You’ve helped me grow, you’ve helped me develop as a player”, but most importantly as a person.”


There are few players in Crusaders history who have made a mark like Sam Whitelock. A mainstay for generations of fans, his presence on the field brought confidence to both the playing group and the fans.


The same could be said for his impact on the All Blacks, having earned many All Blacks caps as captain and respect across the globe as a rugby role model.


Scott Robertson, Crusaders Head Coach, said Whitelock was an “iconic rugby player” who had taught him a lot throughout his coaching career.


“He’s iconic because of his consistency in form at all levels, spanning three decades and being at the top of his game throughout that time,” Robertson said.


He said Whitelock’s game understanding and “his ability to win big moments in big games” set him apart.


“He has an innate ability to connect the group and know what needs to be said at the right time on and off the field.”


“He’s a great mate and a pleasure to coach.”


“If there’s one player who lives the Crusaders culture it’s him, through consistency, his daily habits and his leadership.”


Whitelock will join Pau after the Rugby World Cup.

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby

Continue Reading

Super Rugby

Team Naming: Whitelock Back for Waratahs Game



GettyImages 1475749280

The Crusaders have named their side to face the Waratahs in Round 14 of Super Rugby Pacific ’23.


It’s the team’s last home game of the regular season before we get into finals. Kick off is Saturday at 4.35pm.


Codie Taylor takes up captaincy with Scott Barrett making the most of a rest week before some big showdowns. He’s joined in the front row by Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Tamaiti Williams.


Sam Whitelock returns this week, itching to take the field after a few weeks sidelined by injury. Both Codie Taylor and Scott Robertson spoke on Thursday morning about looking forward to having his leadership and wisdom back on the grass.


The dynamic duo of Mitch Drummond and Richie Mo’unga return at halfback and first five, their routine well-polished by now.


Look for some antics and acrobatics from Leicester Fainga’anuku and Dallas McLeod on the left and right wings, and a safe pair of hands at the rear with Fergus Burke as fullback.


Reuben O’Neill is set to make his Crusaders debut off the bench this week, the current Taranaki and former Chiefs player bolstering the front row stocks. He’s slotted in well with the team during trainings, Robertson saying he was “familiar to us” and helped relieve the burden on a front row depleted by injury. Brodie McAlister and Seb Calder make up the rest of the replacement front row.


The Crusaders go into this one second on the table, the Waratahs in sixth. There’s no discounting an Aussie side still within reach of a home quarter if the cards fall right for them. Expect a big contest.

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby

Continue Reading

Super Rugby

Farewell to a legend



The Highlanders will use the last home game of the year against the Reds on Friday 26th May to farewell Aaron Smith – their most capped player ever. All things going to plan Smith should play his 184th game against the Reds.

Smith joined the club in 2011 at the behest of the then new Highlander’s coach, Jamie Joseph, having previously been in the Blues wider training group, the rest as they say is history.

Widely recognised as one of the best halfbacks in the game his performances over the years have left fans, fellow players and the media in awe of his consistency, energy, skill level and competitiveness.

However, all good things come to an end and on Friday 26th May at 7.05pm Smith will suit up in his Highlanders jersey and run out of the stadium tunnel to be greeted by a home crowd for the last time, from next year he is signed to play in the Japanese League.

Highlanders CEO Roger Clark appreciates it will be a significant moment in the club’s history.

“Aaron has given so much to the club and rugby public in this region. Saying good-bye is not a moment that many will be looking forward to, but he so richly deserves this one last opportunity to sign off an amazing Highlanders career in front of his home crowd.  No doubt It will be a very special occasion for Aaron, Teagan and his children Luka and Leo, we hope it will be a night to remember for all.”

Head Coach Clarke Dermody acknowledges it will be an extra special night for his All-Black halfback.

“He’s been leading our team around the park for the last decade or so and he epitomises everything that a professional player should be – always prepared, highly skilled, competitive, and passionate about his team. He deserves all the recognition he gets, and he has worked very hard for it. Knowing Aaron, he will treat it like any other week, go through his routines, preparing accurately and give it his best on the night. I know I won’t be alone in reflecting on his enormous contribution to rugby in our region as his last home game comes to an end.”

Fans will have another opportunity to watch the master in action when the Highlanders take on the Rebels this Saturday at 4.35pm.

Book your seat to witness history here 


Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

Continue Reading