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Super Rugby: Season Preview, initial thoughts.

A look ahead to the 2019 Campaign

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Super Rugby

Highlanders Confirm Trio of Signings

The Highlanders have announced the arrival of three new players following the departure of a host of key men at the end of last season

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(Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have confirmed the signings of Otago trio Michael Collins, Vilimoni Koroi and Sione Misiloi ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Collins, who was the Otago captain, and Misiloi have penned one-year contracts with the New Zealand based franchise.

However, Koroi, has signed a three-year deal which will see him miss the majority of next season so to allow him to be in selection contention for the All Blacks Sevens at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Koroi is probably the most exciting of the three to have arrived as he can cover fly-half, wing and full-back and at only 21 will continue to grow as a player.

The other exciting prospect for the Highlanders is that they have already signed another All Blacks youngster in Scott Gregory, who is a blossoming full-back that has lit up the stage at underage levels.

The thought of Gregory and Koroi linking up is great but both are trying to get into that Sevens team and will be out of selection contention next season.

As well as that trio and Gregory the Highlanders have also signed Connor Garden-Bachop, Mitch Hunt, Jona Nakeri and Ngane Punivai in what has been an eventful transfer period so far.

However, the signings were vital following the departure of 12 key players including the likes of Jackson Hemopo, Matt Faddes, Ben Smith, Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock.

Although it might take a bit of time to get the squad together the new signings are promising for the franchise’s future.

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Super Rugby

Sharks Add Lions Star to Squad

The Sharks have seen a number of players leave this summer, but now they have started to add some promising stars ahead of the new season

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(Photo credit PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sharks have confirmed the signing of from the Lions ahead of the 2020 season.

Tambwe joins the side on the back of an impressive Currie Cup campaign where he scored seven tries for the Golden Lions, having scored the same number for the Lions in the 2018 Super Rugby campaign.

The 22-year-old also joins back-rower James Venter who linked up with the squad yesterday.

RugbyPass are also reporting that the Sharks are looking at bringing in Ox Nche and Sikhumbuzo Notshe, while Rugby365 also claim that the Durban-based franchise are hoping to sign Werner Kok and Henco Venter.

The side are looking to rebuild following the departure of a number of players which includes the three du Preez brothers, Coenie Oosthuizen and Akker van der Merwe, who have all headed to Sale Sharks in the Premiership.

While Andre Esterhuizen has ledt for Japan, Philip van der Walt has signed for the Newcastle Falcons in England, while they also replaced head coach Rob du Preez with Sean Everitt.

Despite the leaving players the Sharks still have the likes of S’bu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi on their roster in what is an exciting prospect ahead of the new season.

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International

Dyantyi’s B-Sample Test Results Come Back

Aphiwe Dyantyi has been accused of doping and after asking for his B-sample tests to be checked, he has learned his fate

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Springboks winger Aphiwe Dyantyi has failed in his B-sample doping test after prohibited substances were found his A-sample previously.

The 25-year-old has been formally charged with having multiple anabolic steroids and metabolites in both samples that were provided to the South African Institute of Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS).

SAIDS have now informed SA Rugby and Dyantyi’s Super Rugby franchise the Lions of the situation as they now decide what to do.

“SA Rugby, the Lions Rugby Company and Dyantyi are working with SAIDS, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and all other relevant authorities on the matter and no further comment can be made at this stage,” a statement read.

Last weekend the Lions player issued his own statement in which he plead his innocence before his B-sample was tested.

“I want to deny ever taking any prohibited substance, intentionally or negligently, to enhance my performance on the field. I believe in hard work and fair play. I have never cheated and never will. The presence of this prohibited substance in my body has come as a massive shock to me and together with my management team and experts appointed by them, we are doing everything we can to get to the source of this and to prove my innocence,” he added.

He went on to say that he would never have taken any substances and that the next sample would prove that he hadn’t.

“As a professional sportsman on the national and international level, we get tested on a regular basis. I have been tested before and again since this test. It is part of the job and we all know that each and every player is bound to get tested at least two to four times a year. Taking any prohibited substance would not only be irresponsible and something that I would never intentionally do. It would also be senseless and stupid. I underwent a drug test on June 15 (only two weeks prior to the July 2 test) which did not return any adverse finding,” he added.

Dyantyi is now facing the prospect of a four-year ban from rugby after being capped by the Springboks 13 times, however, failing to make the Rugby World Cup squad. He will have his chance prove his innocence, but he will need a seriously could case behind him to reverse the decision.

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