World Cup winning former All Black fly-half Stephen Donald has been included in the Chiefs 2016 Super Rugby squad.
31-year-old returns Donald, who has played 85 matches for the two-time champions, return after a four-year absence, joining Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie as the fly-half options.
All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has been named in the squad of 40 players but as a Tier One member of the New Zealand Sevens squad building towards the Rio Olympics next year, Head coach Dave Rennie doesn't expect Williams to pull on a Chiefs jersey in 2016.
Rennie believes they have assembled a squad with a good blend of enthusiastic debutants and experience, with 12 current and former All Blacks in the team. The 14 new faces, represents the Chiefs highest turnover since 2012.
"We’ve selected an outstanding group of men, high on character and competitive edge," said Rennie.
"The new competition structure will be challenging with more travel, but being the first team to play in Buenos Aires will be an amazing occasion."
There are 26 players returning to squad, including Japan captain Michael Leitch.
There are a total of 25 players from the Chiefs region Provincial Unions with seven from Counties Manukau and Waikato, six from Taranaki and five from Bay of Plenty.
Augustine Pulu will also be involved in the All Blacks Sevens squad in 2016 at Tier 2 level.
11 players are expected to make their Super Rugby debuts.
Those players include Sam Vaka from the All Blacks Sevens side and Counties Manukau and Mitch Karpik from the New Zealand U20’s 2015 IRB Junior World Cup winning team who has been a stand out for Auckland in the ITM Cup and has now joined Bay of Plenty.
James Tucker and Tom Sanders, both from the 2014 New Zealand U20’s team, former Warrior Glen Fisiiahi, Teleni Seu from Auckland, Latu Vaeno from Taranaki and Chase Tiatia all become new Chiefs.
20 year-old Tiatia caught the Chiefs eye during the ITM Cup season with Bay of Plenty after making the move from Wellington. Last year he played ITM Cup and in the inaugural winning team of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National U19 Tournament for Wellington.
The captain of the 2015 New Zealand U20s team Atu Moli and his Waikato team mate Shaun Stevenson will be in line to make their Super Rugby debut having come from this year’s Chiefs Development team. The squad features 12 players in the squad from the Chiefs Development programme.
Dominic Bird and Nepo Laulala from the Crusaders and Sam McNicol from the Hurricanes have all made the move north.
Kieran Keane from the Tasman Makos and Neil Barnes from the RWC Canadian team join Dave Rennie and Andrew Strawbridge to complete the Chiefs coaching team.
Chiefs Super Rugby Squad
Michael Allardice-Lock (Hawke’s Bay)
Johan Bardoul-Loose forward (Bay of Plenty)
Dominic Bird-Lock (Canterbury)**
Sam Cane-Loose forward (Bay of Plenty)
Stephen Donald-First five-eighth (Waikato)
Aaron Cruden-First five-eighth (Manawatu)
Hika Elliot – Hooker (Taranaki)
Glen Fisiiahi – Utility Back (Counties Manukau)*
Siegfried Fisiihoi-Prop (Bay of Plenty)*
Mitchell Graham – Prop (Taranaki)
Nathan Harris – Hooker (Bay of Plenty)
Andrew Horrell – Midfield back (Hawke’s Bay)
Mitchell Karpik-Loose forward (Auckland-Bay of Plenty)*
Tawera Kerr-Barlow-Halfback (Waikato)
Tevita Koloamatangi-Loose forward (Tasman)
Nepo Laulala-Prop (Canterbury)**
Michael Leitch-Loose forward (Japan)
Anton Lienert-Brown-Midfield back (Waikato)
James Lowe-Winger (Tasman)
Pauliasi Manu-Prop (Counties Manukau)
Rhys Marshall-Hooker (Taranaki)
Damian McKenzie-First five-eighth/Fullback (Waikato)
Sam McNicol-Outside back (Wellington)**
Atu Moli-Prop (Waikato)*
Charlie Ngatai-Midfield back (Taranaki)
Augustine Pulu-Halfback (Counties Manukau)
Toni Pulu-Winger (Counties Manukau)
Brodie Retallick-Lock (Bay of Plenty-Hawke’s Bay)
Tom Sanders-Loose forward (Canterbury) *
Teleni Seu-Loose forward (Auckland)*
Shaun Stevenson-Outside back (Waikato)*
Seta Tamanivalu-Midfield back (Taranaki)
Chase Tiatia-Outside back (Bay of Plenty)*
Siate Tokolahi-Prop (Canterbury)
James Tucker-Lock (Waikato)*
Maama Vaipulu-Loose forward (Counties Manukau)
Latu Vaeno-Winger (Taranaki)*
Sam Vaka-Midfield back (Counties Manukau)*
Brad Weber-Halfback (Waikato-Hawke’s Bay)
Sonny Bill Williams-Midfield (Counties Manukau)
Austin Manning – Supersub (Bay of Plenty) ***
*Super Rugby debut
** Chiefs debut
***Special team member
A special member of the Chiefs whanau, Austin Manning from Mount Manganui has been named as the 41st man in the Chiefs Squad. The seven year old is suffering from cerebral palsy. Austin is confined to a wheelchair and requires help for all of life’s tasks. The Chiefs will be fundraising to assist Austin to get to St Louis in America for an operation that will radically change his and his family’s life. Austin’s Mum is also going through her own battle with cancer. Visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/austinsdreamtowalk to help Austin.