Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper will not complete the final year of his contract and will step down the club and New Zealand Rugby have confirmed.
Cooper, who has completed two of the three years on his contract will take next year to spend time with his family and has been in discussions over a release from his contract for several weeks.
Having led the Chiefs to successive quarter finals in 2018 and 2019, Cooper is happy with the time he spent with the franchise and believes that it is the right time to step aside.
“I believe the team and the club are bigger than the individual and the club comes first. With next year the start of a new World Cup cycle, I believe it is the right time to step aside. There is a good crew of players and staff here who are committed to carrying the club forward. Developing young players and coaches for the future of New Zealand rugby is something I’m very passionate about, and I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of that with the Chiefs,” he said.
He went on to thank the support he had over his two years with the club and confirmed that he will be spending some time with his family while away from the sport.
“The Chiefs and the Club are well supported by fans and sponsors, and I would like to thank them for making me feel welcome and at home in Hamilton. For now, my focus is to complete our season review, and then my priority is to spend time with my whanau, and moko who are continuing to grow,” he added.
Cooper admitted that while he is taking the time to be with his family, he will also be considering his future.
“The role of the head coach has evolved so much over the past five or six years. My passion is ‘hands-on’ on-the-field coaching, but with bigger playing numbers and more staff involved these days, I am getting taken further and further away from my passion. So, I will take some time out with my family and discuss our future,” he finished.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew was full of praise for Cooper who has been on the coaching scene for over 20 years now and hopes to see him back in the rugby circle again soon.
“Coops is a remarkable individual with great presence and mana. We know Coops to have a special talent in communicating with young men and working to bring the best out of those in his charge, and to help grow outstanding individuals on and off the field. We appreciate that he will have some decisions to make and while he will have choices in front of him, we hope his special abilities won’t be lost to New Zealand rugby,” he said.
Tew also agreed with Cooper’s timing and the way he dealt with stepping aside by allowing notice to give the club time to find a replacement.
“Next year is a post-World Cup year when there is a lot of player movement within Super Rugby and clubs are beginning the next four-year cycle. Taking that into consideration, both Colin and the Club have spoken at length over several weeks and agree that the time is right for a new coach to take the Chiefs into 2020 and beyond Being an ultimate professional and team man, Colin’s early decision was not made lightly by either him or the Club, but it has allowed us some space to recruit and plan for a smooth and successful transition,” he added.
Cooper will be a hard man to replace as he was loved by many at the club, and rugby fans will be hoping to see him back on the scene soon.
Waratahs Squad announced for 2024 Super Rugby Season
The NSW Waratahs confirmed its initial 34-player squad for the 2024 Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific season with a couple more spots to be decided in pre-season.
Props: Angus Bell, Archer Holtz, Daniel Botha, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Tom Lambert, Tom Ross
Hookers: Dave Porecki, Mahe Vaianu, Theo Fourie
Locks: Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan
Loose forwards: Charlie Gamble, Fergus Lee-Warner, Lachlan Swinton, Langi Gleeson, Ned Slack-Smith
Halfbacks: Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Teddy Wilson
Flyhalves: Jack Bowen, Tane Edmed, Will Harrison
Centres: Izaia Perese, Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Mosese Tuipulotu
Outside backs: Dylan Pietsch, Harry Wilson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen, Vuate Karawalevu
New signings and re-signings
For all new signings and re-signing, you can follow our 2024 Waratahs Contract tracker.
Highlanders 2024 Squad Announcement
The Highlanders will usher into the fold a swag of new players for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition.
Some have already made brief appearances last season such as halfback Nathan Hastie, loose forward Oliver Haig, hooker Jack Taylor and midfielders Jake Te Hiwi and Matt Whaanga. Several players have come through the John Jones Steel Highlander’s High Performance Programme such as first-five, Ajay Faleafaga, and loose forward Hayden Michaels.
Also new to the team, and adding depth to the outside back stocks, are the arrival of blockbusting winger and former Moana Pasifika star, Timoci Tavatavanawai, and Blues’ speedster Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens. Argentinian winger, Martín Bogado, fresh from the 2023 World Cup, will return to further his Super Rugby experience in New Zealand.
Another former Blues player will add strength to the midfield in the form of Tanielu Tele’a who will be looking to get his career back on track after being hampered by injury in recent seasons.
Former Welsh international, Rhys Patchell, will bring his vital experience to the first-five role which will be good news for young pivots Cameron Millar and Ajay Faleafaga.
All Black, Ethan De Groot, will be joined in the forward pack by veteran loose forward and former Crusader Tom Sanders.
Highlanders’ Head Coach, Clarke Dermody, is looking forward to the preseason and the opportunity to work with his players.
“We have had a few changes in our squad and our coaching group so it will be great to get everyone together and start building some cohesion through the preseason. We will just about have our whole squad together from day one, which is a nice opportunity for us.”
“I am also pleased to see some of the younger players that we have invested in over the last few years start to come through to Super Rugby level. I am sure their individual enthusiasm will be infectious for the squad.
The team assembles on Thursday 23 November 2023.
2024 HIGHLANDERS SQUAD
Backs: James Arscott (Otago), Connor Garden-Bachop (Wellington), Martín Bogado (Argentina), Folau Fakatava (Hawkes Bay), Ajay Faleafaga (Otago), Sam Gilbert (Otago), Nathan Hastie (Otago), Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki), Jonah Lowe (Hawkes Bay), Cameron Millar (Otago), Jona Nareki (Otago), Rhys Patchell (Wales), Jake Te Hiwi (Otago), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Tasman), Tanielu Tele’a (Auckland), Josh Timu (Otago), Matt Whaanga (Southland)
Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley (Otago), Henry Bell (Otago), Nikora Broughton (Bay of Plenty), Daniel Lienert-Brown (Canterbury), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Ethan De Groot (Southland), Oliver Haig (Otago), Billy Harmon (Canterbury) , Max Hicks (Tasman), Fabian Holland (Otago), Luca Inch (Tasman), Ricky Jackson (Otago), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Saula Ma’u (Otago), Hayden Michaels (Southland), Pari Pari Parkinson (Tasman), Hugh Renton (Tasman), Tom Sanders (Otago) , Jack Taylor (Southland), Will Tucker (Otago), Sean Withy (Otago)
Waratahs 2024 Contract Tracker
Stay updated with the NSW Waratahs 2024 signings!
Jack is Back! The NSW Waratahs are excited to announce the return of Halfback Jack Grant. Grant, who left the Waratahs for a stint with the Ealing Trailfinders, is returning to NSW to bolster the halfback stocks for the 2024 season.
A product of the NSW pathways systems and the Shute Shield, hailing from Easts Rugby Club, Grant made his debut for the NSW Waratahs in 2021 capped 20 times across two seasons.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jack Grant back to the NSW Waratahs family,” said Waratahs Head Coach, Darren Coleman.
“It’s great to have Jack back with us, he’s such a competitive and likable member of our team. He played some great Rugby for us in 2022 and will have benefitted even further from his English experience. He’ll add competition to the half-back selection mix.”
Commenting on his decision to return to NSW, Grant said,
“I’m thrilled to be back with the NSW Waratahs. It was a fantastic experience playing in the UK, and I learned a lot during my time there. However, I’m excited to return to where it all began for me in professional rugby.
“My family and friends are in Sydney and it’s always special to wear the sky blue.”
The Waratahs will continue to announce signings over the course of the month.
The NSW Waratahs re-sign Lachlan Swinton, Ned Hanigan, Teddy Wilson & Will Harrison till the end of the 2024 season.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year is a testament to the NSW pathway program. A product of Sydney’s Northern beaches, Swinton has risen through system ranks from Knox Grammar to Sydney University and finally to the Super Rugby stage. The 26-year-old will be eyeing off his 50th Waratahs cap in the 2024 season. Having made a full recovery from his shoulder injury Swinton will be fresh off a great Baa Baas tour.
The 28-year-old backrower is a product of the NSW pathways, progressing from club rugby in Randwick and NSW Country in the NRC to making his debut for the Waratahs in 2016 and representing the side on 62 occasions.
Wilson had a breakout season on the international stage, becoming the Junior Wallabies captain in their World Championship campaign in South Africa earlier this year. The 20-year-old has notched 7 caps for the Waratahs already and will look to make his stamp on the 2024 season. The coaching staff sees him as a big part of the Tahs future!
The 23-year-old was the 2017 captain of Australian schoolboys, and has collected 235 Super Rugby points over 31 Waratahs caps. Despite numerous injuries throughout his career, Harrison is still regarded as one of the game’s most promising young talents. He was ruled out of the 2023 season due to an ACL repair, however, Head of Athletic Performance Nick Lumley is confident about his return this year,
“Will had an ACL repair in April this year, on the same knee he injured against Rebels in 2022. He’s working incredibly hard passed all his gym-based tests and has resumed running.
He’s got more work to do but we’re aiming for a return in 2024, however, our primary focus is to get it right so we’ll give him whatever time he needs.”
Head Coach Darren Coleman was excited to secure these four NSW-born stars for the upcoming 2024 Super Rugby Pacific Season,
“These four are big players and personalities in our squad. If the four of them can have big seasons it will go a long way to us having a successful 2024 campaign.”
The NSW Waratahs will begin pre-season in the coming month and prepare for their 2024 Super Rugby campaign on the 24th of February at Suncorp Stadium against the QLD Reds.