Home: FMG Stadium Waikato
Last season: 7th
Nathan Harris, Bradley Slater, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ryan Coxon, Nepo Laulala, Atunaisa Moli, Reuben O’Neill, Aidan Ross, Angus Ta’avao, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tyler Ardron, Michael Allardice, Laghlan McWhannell, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Pita Gus Sowakula, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Karpik, Dylan Nel, Lisati Milo-Harris, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden, Tiaan Falcon, Damian McKenzie, Kaleb Trask, Orbyn Leger, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tumua Manu, Alex Nankivell, Bailyn Sullivan, Solomon Alaimalo, Sam McNicol, Kini Naholo, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Shaun Stevenson, Quinn Tupaea, Sean Wainui
Two words. Damian McKenzie. He’s back and we can’t wait to see him return to action. His 2019 Super Rugby season got cut short, after he ruptured his ACL against the Blues in April. He’s chomping at the bit to get back out there and is expected to be fit and ready to go in the season opener against the Blues at Eden Park on January 31. McKenzie will link back up with teammate Aaron Cruden who returns to the Chiefs and he’ll likely cement his spot in the 15 jersey, with Cruden in the pivot role. Expect to see McKenzie fired up and ready to make up for lost time, he’ll be as slippery as ever for his defenders and a hard man to stop.
Quinn Tupaea is the pick of the bunch for us. The New Zealand Under 20s player had an impressive Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Waikato and has learnt from the best in Mooloo stalwart Dwayne Sweeney. The 20 year-old beat 64 defenders during the Mitre 10 Cup last year and scored seven tries in nine games. He’s a former New Zealand Secondary Schools captain and is a powerful ball runner and is skillful with ball in hand. Tupaea will be one to watch in Investec Super Rugby.
We can’t look past Aaron Cruden. The former All Blacks pivot has previously made 89 appearances for the Chiefs and played a key role in their back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013. The 31 year-old returns from three seasons with French club Montpellier and will obviously bring ample amounts of experience. Warren Gatland can’t wait to see him in action for the Chiefs again, saying last year, “he can spark up an attack from anywhere on the park.” As mentioned earlier, he’ll connect superbly with Damian McKenzie and when you throw the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown and Brad Weber in the mix, you’ve got an impressive looking backline.
The Chiefs had a very slow start to the season last year, their first win not coming until round six. Expect a much stronger start to the season from the Chiefs, as they get into their work with new coach Warren Gatland. A proud Waikato man, Gatland is thrilled to be home and will want to stamp his coaching mark on the Investec Super Rugby competition early. Expect to see the Chiefs forward pack step up this year too. Luke Jacobson will be raring to go, having had to leave the World Cup with concussion last year and locks, Michael Allardice, Tyler Ardron, Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Laghlan McWhannell will need to step up in the absence of Brodie Retallick who will miss the entire season on sabbatical in Japan.