2023 season in review: New Zealand edition

Chiefs web


Record: 13 wins, 4 losses

Finish: Champions

Quick Wrap: The Crusaders reign under incomparable coach Scott Robertson finished at it started with a seventh consecutive title. The Crusaders had to go to the well to deny the Chiefs 25-20 in Hamilton. The Crusaders used 48 players with relative unknowns like Tamaiti Williams, Sione Havili Talitui, Dallas McLeod, and Christian Lio-Willie establishing themselves among the best of 2023. Crusaders captain Scott Barrett had an epic season and made a heroic 17 tackles in the final. Robertson finished with a Bradman-like 99 wins in 118 games stretching back to 2017.


All Blacks

Codie Taylor, Fletcher Newell, Tamaiti Williams, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Braydon Ennor, Dallas McLeod, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Will Jordan

All Blacks XV

Oli Jager, Quinten Strange, Christian Lio-Willie, Jack Goodhue, 


Sione Havili Talitui

New Zealand Under 20s

Noah Hotham, Macca Springer, Taha Kemara


Record: 15 wins, 2 losses

Finish: Runners-up

Quick Wrap: The Chiefs beat the Crusaders twice and every other team at least once, but their final loss will hurt. A lack of discipline saw them concede 22 points while down to 14 players. The Chiefs success was built around a brutal pack, greater maturity from first-five Damian McKenzie, a lethal back three, and an explosive bench. Emoni Narawa and Shaun Stevenson played themselves in the All Blacks, Samisoni Taukei’aho enhanced his growing reputation and captain Sam Cane silenced many critics with his consistency.


All Blacks

Samisoni Taukei’aho, Brodie Retallick, Josh Lord, Tupou Vaa’i, Luke Jacobson, Sam Cane, Samipeni Finau, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson (injury cover).

All Blacks XV

Aidan Ross, Tyrone Thompson, Pita Gus Sowakula, Naitoa Ah Kuoi , Brad Weber, Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo


Record: 11 wins, five losses

Finish: Losing semifinalist

Quick Wrap: Three of the Blues five defeats were against the Crusaders including the spectacular collapse in the semi-final. The Blues best was breathtaking, think the four tries scored by Mark Telea in the Hurricanes game or putting 60 on the Highlanders in the first round in Dunedin. However, the Blues lacked consistency with a poor kicking game and injuries hurting late in the season. Brothers Reiko and Akira Ioane both passed 100 Super Rugby games.


All Blacks:

Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Caleb Clarke, Mark Telea.

All Blacks XV:

Ricky Riccitelli, Akira Ioane, Cameron Suafoa, Stephen Perofeta, AJ Lam


Jordan Lay

New Zealand Under 20s

Caleb Tangitau


Record: 9 wins, six losses

Finish: Losing quarterfinalist

Quick Wrap: At their best, the Hurricanes could have been title contenders. Their win against the Crusaders, flipping a 3-19 deficit, was outstanding. The burst off the back of the scrum by Braydon Iose was epic. Ardie Savea had another brilliant year and young halfback Cam Roigard hurt the opposition with his dynamic running game. However, the Hurricanes lost twice to the Chiefs and the Blues, stumbled in Fiji, and struggled at first five. Jason Holland finished as coach with a 32-25 record.


All Blacks

Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, Ardie Savea, Cam Roigard, Jordie Barrett, Tevita Mafileo (injury cover)

All Blacks XV

Tevita Mafileo, Xavier Numia, Asafo Aumua, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Brett Cameron, Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, Ruben Love


Hame Faiva

New Zealand Under 20s

Petar Lakai, Harry Godfrey


Record: 5 wins, nine losses

Finish: Ninth

Quick Wrap: The Highlanders were outscored 42-140 in their first three games against the Chiefs, Crusaders, and Blues. Though things got better narrow losses to the Waratahs and Blues left the Highlanders short of the finals. Ethan de Groot wasn’t bettered by anyone at scrum time, Billy Harmon and Hugh Renton were strong in the loose and the Highlanders won Aaron Smith’s last game at home when fellow halfback Folau Fakatava scored a thrilling last-minute try against the Reds.


All Blacks

Ethan de Groot, Shannon Frizell, Aaron Smith.

All Blacks XV

Jermaine Ainsley, Billy Harmon, Folau Fakatava, Sam Gilbert, Jona Nareki


Martin Bogado

Moana Pasifika

Record: 1 win, 13 losses

Finish: 12th

Quick Wrap: Moana Pasifika didn’t win until the last game of the season against the Waratahs but hinted they weren’t far away with four losses by less than a converted try. Their best display was against the Blues at Eden Park where they conceded a heart-breaking penalty try to lose 30-31. Moana Pasifika was at its best when they abandoned tentative territorial kicking and backed the size and skill of their running game. Wing Timoci Tavatavanawai and centre Levi Aumua were damaging.



Michael Curry, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Christian Leali'ifano, D' Angelo Leuila, Luteru Tolai, Ray Niuia, Samuel Slade, Jack Lam, Alamanda Motuga, Ereatara Enari, Jonathan Taumateine, Neria Foma’i, Danny Toala


Solomone Funaki, Fine Inisi, Samiuela Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo ‘Apikotoa, Manu Paea, William Havili, Kyren Taumoefolau (Moana Pasifika Under 20s)

International season:

In just over two months, the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France with plenty of DHL Super Rugby Pacific stars sure to be in action on the world’s biggest stage.

Before then, the All Blacks have the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup to play for. While the All Blacks game against South Africa at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium is sold out on Saturday July 15, there are still limited tickets to the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia on Saturday 5 August in Dunedin. Get your tickets HERE to experience the magic under the roof at Forsyth-Barr Stadium.

The Pacific Nations Cup is shaping as a crucial stepping-stone to the Rugby World Cup in France with Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Australia A and Japan squaring off in July and August.

Keep an eye on all your favourite DHL Super Rugby Pacific stars throughout a massive year of international rugby.


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