2 Nov 2016

NZ Super Rugby sides confirm 2017 squads

11:23 am on 2 November 2016

There are ten new players in the Crusaders squad for 2017, though one of them is a familiar face who's returning to the side.

Tim Bateman playing for the Crusaders in 2010.

Tim Bateman playing for the Crusaders in 2010. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Of the ten new Crusaders, four are in the forwards.

Prop Oliver Jager makes the step up to Super Rugby after an impressive debut season with the Canterbury provincial team.

The Tasman hooker Andrew Makalio represented Auckland in every age-group from under-15s to Auckland B, but shifted to Tasman in 2016 to try his luck and, with a 120kg frame and some incredible power and pace, it did not take long for him to be noticed.

Another new player out of the Tasman camp is lock Quinten Strange.

He was selected in the NZ Under 20 team this year, and off the back of some impressive performances there earned selection in the Tasman provincial team.

Adding to the loose forward stocks this season is Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, a stalwart of the Manawatu Turbos.

Three of the new backs have previously been announced - Bryn Hall at halfback, Seta Tamanivalu in the midfield and Digby Ioane on the wing.

Joining them as new faces in the backline are two exciting young outside backs and one returning face.

Tim Bateman, who played for the Crusaders from 2007 - 2010 and then the Hurricanes from 2012 - 2014, returns to his red and black roots to add some experience in the backs.

Earning a spot in the squad off the back of an impressive provincial campaign is Canterbury speedster George Bridge.

The final new face is young winger, Manasa Mataele.

Mataele will make the move from Taranaki to the Crusaders with his uncle, Seta Tamanivalu.

The Chiefs boast 31 players returning from the 2016 squad, including Kane Hames, Mitchell Brown and Lachlan Boshier, who all impressed as Squad replacement players in 2016.

Seasoned campaigners Liam Messam and Tim Nanai-Williams return home, bringing more than 200 Chiefs caps of experience with them.

They are joined by hard-working loose forward Michael Leitch who also returns from Japan.

The squad boasts seven current All Blacks, including 21-year old backs Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown.

In addition the squad has five new players vying to make their Super Rugby debuts.

These debutants are Sosefo Kautai of Waikato, Liam Polwart of Bay of Plenty, Johnny Fa'auli of Taranaki, Solomon Alaimalo of Northland and Finlay Christie of Tasman.

The Blues have 25 of their most experienced players returning and will look to their pack for leadership with five current All Blacks comprising Charlie Faumuina, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua; Maori All Blacks Akira Ioane and Kara Pryor, and James Parsons.

In the backs George Moala and teenage star Rieko Ioane are included in the All Blacks Northern Tour, with Billy Guyton and Ihaia West in the Maori All Blacks.

The Blues have attracted some key players who have taken the opportunity to return to the region led by Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu and Pauliasi Manu - who have all won All Black selection - and experienced Counties Manukau lock/loose forward Jimmy Tupou.

Rookie of the year Piers Francis returns while fullback Melani Nanai who trained with the All Blacks this year, league convert Matt Duffie, Sam Prattley, Blake Gibson, prop Sione Mafileo, lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and centre Matt Vaega are in the squad as are Northland captain Matt Moulds and NZ under 20 player Sam Nock.

The experienced Rene Ranger and former NZ Schools and NZ under 20 midfielder TJ Faiane return after long term injuries; NZ Under 20 fullback Jordan Trainor graduates to the full squad while former Sevens star Declan O'Donnell and first five/fullback Stephen Perofeta both from Taranaki, and Otago utility Michael Collins join the team.

Upfront the newbies include some former New Zealand under 20 players in prop Hame Faiva, Northland lock Josh Goodhue, the returning Scott Scrafton and former New Zealand Sevens player Murphy Taramai.

The Highlanders squad features five new players as well as fulltime contracts for Fletcher Smith and Aki Seiuli who joined the Highlanders in 2016 as injury replacements.

The team features 33 players returning from 2016 which will provide experience and continuity for new head coach Tony Brown.

New signings Tevita Li (Blues), Kayne Hammington and Siate Tokolahi (Chiefs) and prop Guy Millar (Western Force) will join young Otago lock Josh Dickson in their debut season for the Highlanders.

The team welcomes back Richard Buckman, Hayden Parker and Josh Renton from long-term injuries sustained in 2016 however prop Brendon Edmonds was ruled out of selection as he is yet to recover fully from his knee injury.

Seven new players including four Super Rugby rookies feature in the Hurricanes squad named to defend the Super Rugby title.

Canterbury utility back Jordie Barrett, Taranaki loose forward Toa Halafihi, Taranaki halfback Kylem O'Donnell, and Wellington outside back Peter Umaga-Jensen have been selected for their first season.

In addition to the freshman class, lock Sam Lousi, loose forward Reed Prinsep, and wing Ben Lam join the Hurricanes for the first time from the Waratahs, Crusaders and Blues respectively.

The Hurricanes squad includes 31 players who took part in the 2016 campaign and will again be captained by hooker Dane Coles.

Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder is fit and fully recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of most of the 2015 campaign, while halfback TJ Perenara and first-five Beauden Barrett and wings Cory Jane and Julian Savea will ensure there is plenty of experience in the backline.

Up front Taranaki prop Mike Kainga joins the squad on a fulltime basis after being called in late last year for the final push to the title.