Super Rugby 2019: Chiefs Squad Analysis

Like they have in seasons prior, the Chiefs will field a squad that features a mix of proven performers and unknown young talent ahead of the 2019 Investec Super Rugby campaign.

That unknown talent has a proven track record to defy all expectations in Chiefs country. Don’t believe this pundit? Look no further than last season. Several players with little pedigree went on to become top-level performers and influenced the games that the Chiefs managed to win.

In 2019, the Chiefs keep their members of the core leadership group (Retallick, Cane, McKenzie, Harris, etc). As expected, they welcome some exciting new talent also, such as rising Sevens star Etene Nanai-Seturo and All Blacks wider squad prop Reuben O’Niell.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Japanese international Ataata Moekiola joins the ranks, and a surprise selection for experienced Super Rugby utility back Jack Debreczeni provides cover in several positions. Debreczeni will be known to New Zealand rugby fans after stints for Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup, and regular selections for the Melbourne Rebels in previous Super Rugby seasons.

Colin Cooper Needs Consistency from Chiefs in 2019

For head coach Colin Cooper, embarking on his new coaching role with the Chiefs wasn’t a daunting experience, but a relishing one. Cooper frequently spoke about being more comfortable at this later point in his coaching career compared to his previous Super Rugby role at the Hurricanes. Added to that, Cooper’s successful time coaching the Maori All Blacks saw the proud Taranaki man arrive in Chiefs country feeling at ease and with little to prove.

Cooper’s first year at the helm was a reasonably successful one all told, but a high number of injuries to key players along the way was an unwelcome reality for a squad that was already depleted of some big names from the year prior. The likes of Aaron Cruden, James Lowe, and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (just to name a few) were gone, leaving some serious pressure on younger players in the backline to fill that void. The likes of Sean Wainui and Soloman Aliamalo stood into their respective roles and stood out in particular.

Injuries to Sam Cane and Brodie Rettallick hampered the forward pack throughout 2018, but it saw players like Mitch Karpik, Michael Allardice, and in particular, big props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Angus Ta’avao really shine when their moment came. Through these brave and forced selections, Cooper showed a keen eye to spot a mixture talent on different ends of the age spectrum, but all of which, with little experience at Super Rugby level.

Individual Stories of Intrigue in Selections for 2019

When you look at this Chiefs squad for 2019 on paper, it reads a lot as you’d expect, with a few exceptions.

Some of the new selections were scouted early on, including new midfielder Bailyn Sullivan. During his time with the Mooloos, Sullivan was reported to have been entering conversations with Chiefs coaches from as early as the opening weeks of the Mitre 10 Cup campaign with the Mooloos.

But for some of the more experienced and well-known names in the squad, like Brad Weber, the 2019 season presents the opportunity for one last shot at higher honors.

When The Real Michael Pulman spoke with Weber recently, the 27-year old said he was still gunning for a spot in the All Blacks ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The one time All Black has consistently missed International selection in recent seasons despite performing on the park across both Super and Mitre 10 Cup rugby. In 2018, Weber was overlooked in favor of fellow Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, and Weber himself, whilst happy for Tahuriorangi’s success, was left frustrated when he didn’t receive any communication from All Black coaches with guidance as to where he needed to improve his game.

Likewise with players like Shaun Stevenson, proven at Super Rugby level but seen to be “not quite ready” for the black jersey. 2019 presents players like Weber and Stevenson, amongst many others, with an unlikely yet still very achievable bolt into Steve Hansen’s All Blacks ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Super Rugby 2019: Chiefs Squad Analysis

So where to in terms of Super Rugby honors for this franchise?

In 2018, the Chiefs managed to make the playoffs but rued several basic mistakes on a terrible night in Wellington where they would lose to the Hurricanes by just a single point, but in a match where the scoreline really humbled the visitors.

Really, the performance that night was a fitting example of Chiefs season that was never able to maintain any real consistency, and one that also failed to secure results in the matches that really mattered.

The Chiefs have always had the ability to win the title since their back-to-back run in 2012/13, but a mixture of injuries and a lack of continuity of winning results have hampered those efforts significantly. At times, one could argue that there have also been some off-field dramas that haven’t helped the cause.

Furthermore, the Chiefs seem to be a side more prone to mass injuries if recent examples are anything to go by. Those injuries have left everyone involved with this franchise frustrated in recent seasons, so for Cooper and his fellow assistant coaches, the goal will just be to get through the November/December/January period with little concern in this area.

The 2019 version of this Chiefs squad doesn’t scream title-winning favorites by any stretch, but it certainly provides the depth, proven experience, and world-class talent to be a serious contender once again.

The Full Chiefs Squad For 2019:

Props
Kane Hames (Tasman)
Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
Reuben O’Neill (Taranaki)
Nepo Laulala (Counties Manukau)
Atu Moli (Waikato)
Sosefo Kautai (Waikato)
Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki)
Hookers
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty)
Liam Polwart (Bay of Plenty)
Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato)
Locks
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay)
Tyler Ardron (Bay of Plenty)
Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato)
Michael Allardice (Hawke’s Bay)
Fin Hoeata (Taranaki)
Loose forwards
Mitchell Brown (Taranaki)
Taleni Seu (Auckland)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty)
Mitchell Karpik (Bay of Plenty)
Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
Luke Jacobson (Waikato)
Pita Gus Sowakula (Taranaki)
Halfbacks
Brad Weber (Hawke’s Bay)
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki)
Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau)
First five-eighths
Damian McKenzie (Waikato)
Tiaan Falcon (Hawke’s Bay)
Jack Debreczeni (Northland)
Midfielders
Alex Nankivell (Tasman)
Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato)
Tumua Manu (Auckland)
Bailyn Sullivan (Waikato)
Outside backs
Solomon Alaimalo (Tasman)
Sean Wainui (Taranaki)
Ataata Moeakiola (Japan)
Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau)
Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour)
Marty McKenzie (Taranaki)

“Photo credit”

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’sTcELJXWT49oSH9b3MsUOA’,sig:’uSBqHwdMlNIdlm_jq00KIf_Vk7iIuON3gNl7i0G9lCc=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’993179206′,caption: true ,tld:’in’,is360: false })});//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js

How 2016 changed Damian McKenzie

Super Rugby pre-season is now in session, and the Chiefs continues to be a great destination for blooding expressive young talent keen to get time on the field.

The Chiefs showed great signs of improvement during 2016’s Super Rugby campaign. It wasn’t as if Dave Rennie’s men were particularly bad the season prior, but some young talent really came into itself throughout 2016, and they helped the Chiefs to much success.

Despite having some rich experience in the form of seasoned veterans, the Chiefs have become the best club in New Zealand at developing young talent into International quality players.   Continue reading How 2016 changed Damian McKenzie

Cautions issued to Chiefs players after stripper incident

New Zealand Rugby has dismissed claims that Chiefs players sexually assaulted a stripper at a post-season function.

This finding from an official investigation comes as no surprise to anyone.

Formal cautions have been issued to all Chiefs players. The woman at the heart of this story, a stripper, has said that she is disappointed but not surprised by the conclusion of the investigation.  Continue reading Cautions issued to Chiefs players after stripper incident

Michael Leitch Returns For Chiefs Semi Final Clash

Loose-forward Michael Leitch has been named on the bench for the Chiefs Super Rugby semi final against the Hurricanes this weekend.

Leitch’s selection marks an end to a much-awaited return to rugby after several months on the sidelines. Leitch hasn’t been seen since May when he dislocated his right thumb during the side’s home clash against the Rebels. His return will give the Chiefs significant experience of the bench at a crucial time of playoff rugby.  Continue reading Michael Leitch Returns For Chiefs Semi Final Clash

Sam McNicol Relishing Regular Game Time With Chiefs

A year ago, no one knew who Sam McNicol was, but this is a 20-year old with some serious heart among a lot of adversity.

You couldn’t blame McNicol for questioning his place in rugby after having to go through so many injuries, but the young winger has never given up and is now being rewarded with regular game time.  Continue reading Sam McNicol Relishing Regular Game Time With Chiefs

Liam Messam’s Chiefs Return a No-Brainer

As the most-capped Chiefs player of all time, there is no doubt at all that Liam Messam should return to the club and see out the 2016 campaign.

Popular with the entire organisation, Messam has amassed 144 caps for the Chiefs and was co-captain in seasons past. A former All Black and Rugby World Cup winner, Messam also dabbled in boxing prior to his Sevens Rugby bid. Once his Sevens dream was over, Messam’s Japanese club Toshiba granted him permission to pursue a return to the Chiefs.

Messam’s return is certain, not only because of the large number of injuries that have hit the Chiefs front row recently either. Continue reading Liam Messam’s Chiefs Return a No-Brainer

Charlie Ngatai Still Sidelined With Concussion

Charlie Ngatai continues to be sidelined from playing rugby as symptoms from a concussion sustained nearly two months ago continue to linger.

The midfielder took a knock in the latter stages of the Chiefs’ Round 11 loss to the Highlanders in Hamilton and has been sidelined ever since. Despite being named in the All Blacks, Ngatai was sent home after just a week of training with the squad.

Speaking to the media three weeks ago, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said that the prognosis on Ngatai’s return to rugby was unknown.

Fans will have to wait at least another week to see the standout midfielder back on the park. Ngatai hasn’t made the Chiefs travelling squad for Friday’s clash against the Crusaders in Suva, an historic night for Super Rugby, marking the first time a game has been played in the pacific.

The Chiefs currently sit second on the New Zealand Conference table in Super Rugby.

Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Sonny Bill Williams will likely announce a long-term commitment to New Zealand Rugby tomorrow morning, with two teams both putting down offers for the code-hopping superstars services.

Tana Umaga has been quietly planning for the future at the Blues and has already signed a big name at halfback with the signature of Augustine Pulu, but the rumour mill has always been rife with talk that the one player Umaga really wanted to add to the Blues roster was Williams.

Umaga is so serious to lure Williams that he travelled to Sydney this week to meet with the code-hopping superstars’ manager Khoder Nasser to put an offer on the table.  Continue reading Chiefs unlikely to keep SBW in Hamilton

Charlie Ngatai again misses out on Chiefs selection

The Chiefs have made just one change to their starting squad ahead of their clash against the Australian conference-leading Waratahs on Friday night.

Tom Sanders is promoted from the bench to start at No.8 to replace the injured Michael Leitch who dislocated his thumb last week against the Rebels. Leitch underwent surgery today but head coach Dave Rennie says that the kiwi-born Japanese captain could be available come playoffs time.

“If he can come right, he will be in the reckoning if we get there”, Rennie said.

The Chiefs’ other loose-forward option Maama Vaipula wasn’t considered for selection due to a knock sustained during club rugby last weekend. Continue reading Charlie Ngatai again misses out on Chiefs selection

The Chiefs: News of note (Sunday 22nd May, 2016)

Here is the latest out of the Chiefs camp following the sides 36-15 victory over the Melbourne Rebels.

Michael Leitch To Miss Two Months 

After dislocating his thumb, Michael Leitch will miss up to two months of Super Rugby action. With one round remaining before the month-long international window, and a further three rounds after that until the playoffs, it is likely the kiwi-born Japanese captain will return for knockout rugby.

Aaron Cruden’s Personal Motivation Reminder 

Spotted on the left wristband of Aaron Cruden is written a generic code with letters and numbers. This code is the All Black-regular’s National Health Number (NHN) and it serves as motivation for Cruden on the field, reminding him of his battle with testicular cancer. Cruden says the use of this is a personal message to himself for each game.

“When things get tough on the field, it is something to look back on and know that you have to keep giving it your all”, Cruden said.

Charlie Ngatai Will Play Against Waratahs 

Charlie Ngatai is set to return to the Chiefs midfield for Friday nights clash against the Waratahs in Sydney after it has been revealed that symptoms of a concussion have fully healed. Ngatai’s inclusion will likely be at the expense of Anton Lienert-Brown.