Super Rugby U20 presented by Bunnings Warehouse will see the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders, Highlanders, Fijian Dura, and Moana Pasifika Under 20 sides take part alongside the New Zealand Barbarians Under 21 team.
As usual, there will be an abundance of fledgling talent and future stars on display. Here is a player to watch on each team.
Toby Crosby (Hurricanes) - Was a surprise absence from the Hurricanes squad in 2022 but proved he's the goods with several outstanding displays for his club Upper Hutt. The No.8 nicknamed Protein is a product of St Patrick's College Silverstream. In 2021 he helped Silverstream to a share of the Premier I Championship. His try-busting from halfway in the first minute of the final against Scots College was nominated for Sky Sports Fans try of the year. Senior Hurricane Peter Lakai is named on the team too. He plays the same position as Crosby but don’t be surprised if they both feature at some point. The two of them in tandem are a real handful.
Max Ratcliffe (Highlanders) - The dogged and intelligent openside was captain of the Napier Boys' High School First XV in 2022 that went within a whisker of winning the National Top Four title. They conceded a try to Hamilton Boys’ High School when ahead with the last play of the game. Father Brendon Ratcliffe founded The Rugby Site, an influential coaching tool.
Cody Nordstrom (Chiefs) - The Te Awamutu Sports winger made his senior debut as a 17-year-old. Famously in one match the ‘Taupō Terror’ scored four tries against Hamilton Old Boys. A product of Hamilton Boys' High School, winners of the last eight National Condor Sevens titles, he was picked in the New Zealand Under 20s squad that won the Oceania Championship last year.
Tahlor Cahill (Crusaders) – The lock won the DJ Graham Memorial Medal as the player of the tournament last year, a member of the New Zealand Barbarians side who won all three matches. The Shirley Boys’ High School product was cut from the Crusaders but showed his worth with three busy, skillful, determined displays. Memorably the Barbarians scored a try that went viral around the world. Cahill recalled: “After the first practice coach Jacko asked us ‘what stupid ideas do you have that might work?’ Nikora Broughton suggested kicking the ball behind his head from a tap. We tried it and it failed. In the game against the Highlanders, we scored a try.”
Kyren Tamoefolau (Moana Pasifika) – The 19-year-old fullback presently resides in Tasman but in recent times has been with the ‘Ikale Tahi (Tonga) Sevens team on the HSBC World Sevens Series Circuit. He was their top try-scorer in their latest appearances at the Hamilton and Sydney legs of the circuit this year. Moana Pasifika boasts a squad of 27 players with five players selected from Samoa, four from Tonga, and locals from Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
Te Rama Reuben (New Zealand Barbarians) – The bruising lock and loose forward is a Rotorua lad educated at St Kentigern College. In 2020 he was selected for the New Zealand Schools’ while in Year 12. He is now based in Hamilton where he plays for the University club and has featured in the Waikato NPC team.
Essendon Tuitupou (Blues) – Like father, like son. Essendon is the son of former All Black Sam Tuitupou and plays the same position as Dad. The second-five was a standout for the awesome Kelston Boys’ High School First XV in 2020 which went 18-0 and won their first 1A title since 1998. Ironically Sam was on that team. Essendon was on the New Zealand Under-19 tour of South Africa in 2022 that went 4-0. He’s a hard hitter and direct runner.
Motikai Murray (Fijian Dura) – The strapping No.8 will captain Fiji having quit his tertiary studies to chase his professional sports dream. The Fiji Times reported last year that the Lovoni, Ovalau native comes from a village synonymous with producing champion boxers such as Sakaraia Ve, Sivinia Koroi, and Jale Ligavai. He is a product of Ratu Kadavulevu School who have produced past Fijian rugby champions like Ilaitia Tuisese and foundation senior Dura captain Nemani Nagusi.
All games are live on Sky Sport. Check out the draw HERE.