Last season: Second in Super Rugby Aotearoa, fifth in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman
Home ground: FMG Stadium Waikato
Coach: Clayton McMillan
Gains: Josh Ioane, Brodie Retallick, Emoni Narawa, Tyrone Thompson, Samipeni Finau, Cortez Ratima, Gideon Wrampling
Losses: Damian McKenzie, Lachlan Boshier, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kini Naholo, Bailyn Sulivan, Mitchell Karpik, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Viliame Taulani, Nathan Harris
Brodie Retallick. Need we say more? After a stint plying his trade in Japan and immersing himself in the Japanese culture with his family, Retallick returned to New Zealand for last year’s strenuous All Blacks campaign. He showed glimpses of his usual brilliance on the Northern Tour, but expect him to return to full form for his beloved Chiefs. He’ll also add a tonne of experience amongst a very young group of locks.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Keep an eye on Cortez Ratima. The 20 year-old halfback flourished for Waikato in their Bunnings NPC Premiership-winning season last year and has been described as a young Tawera Kerr-Barlow by McMillan. He was in hot demand, turning down offers from the Hurricanes and Crusaders before deciding to represent his home Super club. From King Country, Ratima is just one of two new players in the Chiefs squad this year, alongside hooker Tyrone Thompson. It’ll be great to see he goes at the next level.
It’s got to be the Super Rugby Aotearoa final re-match with the Crusaders in Christchurch. Having gone down to the Garden City last season for the final and falling short, they’ll be wanting to redeem themselves quick smart. They know they can beat the five-time champions, having defeated them at home during the regular Aotearoa season. They head to Orangetheory Stadium in Round 4 of Super Rugby Pacific.
Whilst the Chiefs have lost a key playmaker in Damian McKenzie for the season (Japan), they’ve gained an experienced pivot in Josh Ioane from the Highlanders and recruited some incredibly exciting young talent. The future is looking bright at the Hamilton-based club. It will also be great to see Atunaisa Moli back after a year off with injury. He’ll add some exciting competition into the Chiefs hooker stocks alongside new All Black, Samisoni Taukei’aho.
Hookers: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Bradley Slater, Tyrone Thompson*
Props: Aidan Ross, Angus Ta’avao, Atunaisa Moli, , Ollie Norris, Reuben O’Neill, , Sione Mafileo
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Josh Lord, Laghlan McWhannell, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i,
Loose forwards: Kaylum Boshier, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Brown, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane, Samipeni Finau, Simon Parker
Halfbacks: Brad Weber, Xavier Roe, Cortez Ratima*
Inside backs: Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Kaleb Trask
Midfield backs: Rivez Reihana, Alex Nankivell, Anton Lienert-Brown, Gideon Wrampling, Quinn Tupaea, Rameka Poihipi
Outside backs: Chase Tiatia, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Jonah Lowe, Shaun Stevenson
*denotes rookie season