Cape Town - The Highlanders will have a fresh new look in 2020 with
15 players in their first season with the southern-most Super Rugby team.
Head coach Aaron Mauger and his coaches have worked hard in the off-season to put together a talented squad of players capable of playing
the Highlanders’ style of rugby.
“We were very clear on our selection criteria and we believe we have
assembled an exciting squad that includes some very talented new players
that all have the ability to contribute to our game”, said Mauger.
There is plenty of experience in the forwards with Liam Coltman, Ash
Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi and James Lentjes having 367
caps between them and newcomers Jeff Thwaites (11 games) and Jesse
Parete (24 games) have already experienced Super Rugby with the Chiefs.
player with a different sort of experience is loose forward Zane Kapeli
having just returned from the Japan Rugby World Cup where he represented Tonga and
was dubbed “Zane the Train” after one memorable tackle on English No
8, Billy Vunipola. Kapeli, 27, a former rugby league player and
currently working as a builder, has previously played for both Waikato
and the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
Hard working Southland prop Ethan de Groot may have had his Mitre 10
season cut short by injury, but at just 20 years of age he is already
shown enough promise to warrant a Super Rugby contract and looks a good
prospect for the future. Another player with a bright future is
Wellington loose forward Teariki Ben-Nicholas who gains his first
Super Rugby selection after a standout Mitre 10 season. A New Zealand Under-20
representative in 2015 and a NZ Universities representative in 2018, he
is a strong ball carrier that can make good metres and is skilful with
ball in hand.
Three proficient and experienced flyhalves - Josh Ioane, Mitch Hunt
and Bryn Gatland - provide good depth in a crucial position while further
out Fijian wing Tevita Nabura, who has spent most of the year
recuperating from a season ending knee injury, with his size and pace he
should give defenders a lot to think about under the roof at Forsyth
He will be joined by fellow Fijian outside back Chris
Kuridrani (younger brother of Nemani Nadolo and cousin of Tevita Kuridrani) who played for
Counties-Manuaku during the Mitre 10 Cup and has experience with the Reds (25 games). The addition of local player and Mitre 10
standout, Jona Nareki, to the outside backs will give coach Mauger
plenty of options for pace and power out wide.
Mauger is satisfied the 2020 squad has the attributes his coaching
team were searching for.
“It’s a squad that have all earned their spots
through hard work and consistent performances and because of that we
expect they will represent the jersey and our community with pride
during the 2020 season”.
The coaching group of Mauger (defence), Tony Brown (attack), Mark
Hammett (forwards), Clarke Dermody (defence/forwards) and Riki Flutey
(skills) will need to hit the ground running as the first round of Super
Rugby is scheduled to be played on weekend of January 30, 2020.
“As a coaching group we are looking forward to 2020 and meeting the
challenges that a new season inevitably presents. Our job will be to set
the right conditions for our players to get the best out of themselves
and if we can get that right then we give ourselves the best chance of
Highlanders 2020 Super Rugby squad:
Hookers: Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ricky Jackson*
Props: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Jeff Thwaites*, Ethan De Groot*
Locks: Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jack Whetton, Manaaki Selby-Rickit*
Loosies: James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele
Tu’u, Shannon Frizell, Sione Misiloi*, Zane Kapeli*, Teariki
Ben-Nicholas*, Jesse Parete*
Scrumhalves: Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava
Flyhalves: Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Mitch Hunt*
Midfielders: Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Thomas Umaga-Jensen**, Scott Gregory***
Outside Backs: Ngane Punivai*, Jona Nareki*, Tevita Nabura, Josh McKay, Michael Collins*, Kirisi Kuridrani*, Connor Garden-Bachop*
*Denotes debut season for Highlanders in 2020
** Thomas Umaga-Jensen is recovering from shoulder surgery and is not expected to return to play until April 2020
*** Scott Gregory will join the All Blacks Sevens Squad during the Super Rugby competition