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Highlanders Continue Building 2024 Squad



 The 2024 Highlanders team continues to take shape with the announcement of three additional players. Outside back Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, lock Mitch Dunshea and loose forward Tom Sanders.

Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is a product of Francis Douglas Memorial College that has produced many quality players including our own Liam Coltman. As a schoolboy star he was selected for the NZ Secondary Schools team in 2018 and 2019 after a brief sojourn with the NRL Paramatta Eels and also spent time with the NZ All Blacks Sevens in 2021. He debuted in 2020 for Taranaki during the NPC and has already racked up 11 tries in his 40 games. His NPC form saw him recruited to the Blues in 2021 but due to an abundance of talented outside backs at the club he has had little game time in his three seasons there.

Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is looking forward to bringing his experiences with the Blues, south:

“For me it’s exciting to join such a proud club who I believe have an exciting future. They appear to have a great mix of youth and experience down there and I’m keen to add what I’ve learned from my time with the Blues to the group in Dunedin.”

29-year-old Tom Sanders debuted for Canterbury and NZ U20s as a loose forward in 2014 before his debut for the Chiefs in 2016 under Dave Rennie. Crusaders Head Coach, Scott Robertson drew him back to Christchurch for a stint with the Crusaders between 2018 and 2021. He had an outstanding game for the South v North in 2020 and after securing another title with the Crusaders in 2021 he headed to Japan to have two seasons with top Japanese club Suntory.

A robust, hardworking number eight he will form part of an exciting group of backrowers that will include Hugh Renton, Billy Harmon, Sean Withy and youngsters Ollie Haig, Hayden Michaels and Nikora Broughton.

Sanders is keen to return to New Zealand and re-join the Super Rugby Pacific competition:

“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the Highlanders and ripping into another Super Rugby campaign. I hope I can put my mark on the jersey and help the team compete for titles.”

Mitchell Dunshea debuted for Canterbury in the year the Highlanders won the Super Rugby title. Selection in the NZU20 and winning a Junior World Cup title was followed by selection in the Crusaders wider training group, however a foot injury kept him out of most of the 2016 season. Subsequently he was selected to the senior Crusaders squad in 2017 and has been there ever since racking up 38 games, a total significantly impacted by injury and the presence of All Black locks Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock.

Dunshea was called into the All Blacks as injury replacement in 2020 travelling to Australia as part of the Tri-Nations but did not take the field.

After a period side-lined with injury this season, he is eager to get back out and play:

“I’m absolutely looking forward to the opportunity to head south and tear into it with the Landers. It appears to be an exciting time to be involved with a good blend of new and experienced players in the squad. Personally, I just can’t wait to get stuck into some footy”.

Highlanders Head Coach Clarke Dermody is happy with new signings and the overall blend of his squad for 2024.

‘We have farewelled quite a few players from this season’s squad and ushered in a number of our younger players, it’s good to get some balance with some experienced professionals like Tom and Mitch. They very much fit the profile of the type of forwards we are looking for, with an uncompromising attitude and good work rate.  Jacob, while still quite young, has been in a good environment for a few seasons now and there has been some genuine speed and excitement shown in his performances.”

“I would like to think that all three players will make a significant contribution to our team, and with solid game time, move their careers forward while at the Highlanders.”


Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

Super Rugby

Brad Shields named 2024 Hurricanes Captain



Brad Shields named 2024 Hurricanes Captain

Experienced loose-forward and Hurricanes centurion Brad Shields has today been confirmed as captain of the Hurricanes ahead of their 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

He will be supported by Asafo Aumua and Jordie Barrett, who have been named as vice-captains for 2024.

Shields, who played 103 games for the Hurricanes between 2012 and 2018, before heading offshore to pursue a test career with England, signed with the Hurricanes last year, eyeing a return for this season.

He takes over the reins from 2023 captain Ardie Savea who departed for Japan this season.

The captain’s tag is a title the 32-year-old is not unfamiliar with, having led the Hurricanes in their 31-all draw against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, and then taking on the role for the entire 2018 season.

Shields said he is honoured to be given the captain’s armband for 2024, but it is a role he will lean on many of his experienced teammates for support.

“I’m hugely excited and honoured to be leading the Hurricanes this season,” said Shields.

“I admit, after Clarky (Clark Laidlaw) told me I was really stoked, but I did feel a little apprehensive given I had been away for a few years and the quality of leadership we have at the Hurricanes. But at the end of the day, it’s a massive challenge and opportunity I’m excited for, and what makes it more exciting is there is a handful of guys here with so much experience who I know I will turn to for support. We’ll all work together with this one.”

Hurricane #184 said he intends to lead by his actions this season which he hopes will bring out the best out of a young Hurricanes team, and Hurricanes fans.

“Actions. Always by actions is how I like to lead,” said Shields.

“I really want to challenge our environment because challenge always brings better performances. We’ve got a really young team this season so anywhere I can help and encourage and bring the best out of some of the young guys, and the players who have been here for a while, is what I aim for.

“The one thing that’s massive for us at the Hurricanes is connection within our community. Ultimately, we’ve got to play good rugby and perform really well if we want bums on seats, but it certainly means a lot to know we’ve got our community behind us, and we’ll do everything we can to give them a good service and make 2024 an exciting and enjoyable season to watch.”

Having an abundance of experienced leaders in this Hurricanes side didn’t make the captaincy decision an easy one for Hurricanes Head Coach Clark Laidlaw.

However, Laidlaw said he and the other coaches were impressed with Shields’ attitude the moment he stepped back into camp and became an obvious choice as the right man to lead the side.

“The coaches and I do a lot of observing around leadership of the team, and it became reasonably apparent that we have several players that want to lead which is really exciting,” said Laidlaw.  

“But with Brad, he leads really well every day. He’s a great role model around how we want to train; he’s competitive as hell; he’s won Super Rugby; he’s a test match player; he’s bigger and stronger than he’s been before; and he knows what it takes to win and to lead. So, at the end of the day, he became an obvious choice.

“One of the best things about Brad is that he wants to be better. That’s an important trait to have as a leader as it rubs off on everyone else. We as coaches want our captain to represent what we want the team to look like. And we felt with Brad’s experience and his maturity, he’s the right man to lead us forward for this season.”

Laidlaw also echoed Shields’ comments on looking to his teammates for support this season.

“Brad will lead the side, but we do have a number of other players with Asafo and Jordie, who are going to be vice-captains of the team, and our leadership group will support Brad and help the coaches this season.”


Content & Images from – Hurricanes Rugby

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Super Rugby

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.

Content & Images from – Waratahs Rugby

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Super Rugby

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.



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)




Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

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