Entertainment central on the Chiefs wings
The Chiefs have two absolutely box-office wingers in their squad for this year’s Super season; Japanese international Ataata Moeakiola and Etene Nanai-Seturo, fresh off the World Sevens circuit.
Moeakiola burst onto the scene in 2016 at the World Rugby U20s, scoring a hat-trick within 30 minutes against South Africa. The Tongan-born wing performed to the point that he was being compared to Jonah Lomu. The 23 year old is quite a physical specimen; he stands 185cm and weighs in at 110kg. This will be Moeakiola’s debut in Super Rugby; he was on the books at the Sunwolves since 2017, but university rugby for Tokai took priority. It will be fascinating to see how the big man adapts to top level rugby, given that it is nearly three years since we saw him at U20 level.
If Ataata Moeakiola is Jonah Lomu, then Etene Nanai-Seturo is Christian Cullen. The 19 year old from Auckland is a much smaller operator than his Japanese compatriot, coming in at just under 90kg and six foot. He is similar in ways to Nehe Milner-Skudder when he first broke through, he is one hell of a stepper, and is one of those players that makes things happen, there is a sense of anticipation when he gets hands on the ball, as those who watched him play for Counties Manukau in this years Mitre 10 Cup are well aware. He showcased his try-scoring ability last weekend, with two tries, simple finishes as they were
Nanai-Seturo was the subject of legal battle when he was younger; he was contracted by the New Zealand Warriors as a 15 year-old, but after he had a change of heart, an agreement was reached between New Zealand Rugby and the Warriors to allow him to join New Zealand Sevens.
Break up with Nick Phipps, I’m Bored
The Rugby Championship was a tough one for Australia, and in particular the much-maligned Waratahs out-half Bernard Foley. Undroppable for Cheika in the past, Foley lost his spot to Kurtley Beale for a couple games. This weekend sees two potential Wallaby half-back pairings face off; Christian Leali’ifano and Joe Powell start for the Brumbies, opposite Will Genia and Quade Cooper for the Melbourne Rebels.
It’s been a difficult couple of seasons for Quade Cooper; he spent time playing for Souths rugby and Brisbane in the NRC after being told he was not part of Brad Thorn’s plans for the Reds. An attempt to make it into the Australian Sevens squad in 2016 didn’t pan out, and two year contract with Toulon ended prematurely.
Cooper’s contract with the Rebels is a lifeline, and his World Cup hopes are greatly benefitted by the fact that he’ll be playing every week opposite Cheika’s first choice scrum-half Will Genia. Half-backs are the source of a lot of Australia’s difficulties. Cheika’s policy of a 6/2 split on the bench means that there is almost never specialist out-half cover on the bench for Australia, Kurtley Beale is the backup. Beale has a lot of good qualities, but he is not a Test level out-half. Quade looked good in Rebels colours last weekend, and if he can get into a good run, it would be very hard to ignore him for a spot in the World Cup
The continued selection of Nick Phipps is also not good for Australia, considering he does not even start for the Waratahs regularly (Jake Gordon does). Joe Powell and Jake Gordon are both young, talented scrum-halves and the sooner Michael Cheika realises that he needs a scrum-half and out-half on the bench, and that he needs to delete Nick Phipps’ number off his phone, the better Australia will be come Japan this Autumn.
Guess who’s back?
Nonu is back folks. Turning 37 this summer, the legendary All Black started last weekend in the Blues midfield outside TJ Faiane. Nonu didn’t look the quickest, understandably, but he was making big hits and carried hard. Many people expected Nonu to retire after he left Toulon for family reasons but he will line out for the Blues this season in what his third stint in Auckland, after the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Nonu will be part of what is quite a tasty backline for the Blues this year; he will form a seriously destructive partnership with Sonny Bill Williams, and will have some lightning pace outside him, with likes of Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane.
Nonu is hopeful of making it to the World Cup. He has said that he learned how to take better care of his body during his three years in France, is a goal for him during this Super Rugby season. He’ll have his work cut out for him however, with the likes of Sonny Bill, Ngani Laumape, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown all in contention for a spot.
Will anyone stop the Crusaders?
In the eyes of many, the Crusaders are the best club team in world rugby. A club world cup like football has is something every rugby fan would love to see, the men from Canterbury lining out against Dublin’s finest, or a reenactment of the ancient battles from which the teams get their names, the Saracens taking a stand against the Crusaders.
Crusaders have been dominating Super Rugby for the last two seasons, going for the three in a row this year. It has been the Lions that have come closest, they were beaten finalists in 2017 and 2018. It is hard to see anyone beating the Crusaders to the title this year. Depth wise, they have the most impressive squad in Super Rugby. An all international pack, combined with some of the most exciting young backs coming through in New Zealand, Crusaders will be great to watch this year.
Most exciting to see are full-back Will Jordan, and halfback Ere Enari. Jordan has long been earmarked for stardom and coach Scott Robertson is excited to see him make his Super Rugby debut, telling Stuff.co.nz
“”Obviously a prodigious talent. You could see in the pre-season, his ability to beat players and take opportunities, he’s definitely got an eye for a gap and a bit of extra speed. He’s a good local boy, he always dreamed of being a Crusader, so it’s a dream for him this weekend.”
Ere Enari has had a torrid time with injuries over the past couple of years, suffering three leg breaks in the space of two years. Like Jordan, he is a star in waiting, who has had to bide his time before making it to Super Rugby, if he can string a good run of games together, it won;t be long before we see him wearing black.Embed from Getty Images
Also worth a watch are Manasa Mataele and George Bridge, both wingers, and Braydon Ennor in the midfield. Ennor in particular looks like a serious player; searing pace, and along with a highly intelligent rugby brain. It will be interesting to see if Richie Mo’unga can build on the calls for him to be given the All Black first five jersey, after his impressive Rugby Championship appearances, and his combining with Beaudy Barrett at full-back.Embed from Getty Images
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.