The Chiefs have named their squad for the 2017 Super Rugby season, with Johnny Fa’auli rewarded with a deal after a strong Mitre 10 Cup.
Kane Hames, Mitchell Brown and Lachlan Boshier, who all impressed as squad replacement players in 2016, earn contracts while 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 to don the Chiefs jersey in 2017.
The squad boasts seven current All Blacks, including 21-year-old backs Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown. The promising youngsters had instrumental seasons with the Chiefs, with their outstanding form earning them selection into the All Blacks.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: “We are really happy with the make-up of our squad. There is an excellent blend of youth and experience, 17 who have played International rugby along with 14 young men who return for their second season in Chiefs colours. That continuity is important, men who have been in our environment and understand the expectations of being a Chief.”
In addition to the high number of returning players for the Chiefs, the 2017 squad has five exciting new Chiefs players vying to make their Super Rugby debuts. These debutants are Sosefo Kautai of Waikato, Liam Polwart of Bay of Plenty, Fa’auli of Taranaki, Solomon Alaimalo of Northland and Finlay Christie of Tasman.
Kautai and Polwart have both successfully progressed through the University of Waikato Chiefs Development programme, making for a total of 13 Chiefs Development graduates in the 2017 squad.
Fa’auli, who showcased his scintillating form for Taranaki in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup, shared his excitement at joining the Chiefs for his first Super Rugby season.
“Playing Super Rugby was a big goal of mine so to be included in the Chiefs squad for 2017 and be one step closer to achieving that goal is exciting. I’ve really enjoyed my rugby and have learned a lot playing for Taranaki this year, I’m looking forward to building on that and learning from some quality coaches and my teammates at the Chiefs this coming season,” said Fa’auli.
Forwards: Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Mitchell Graham, Kane Hames, Sosefo Kautai, Hika Elliot, Nathan Harris, Liam Polwart, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Michael Allardice, James Tucker, Taleni Seu, Liam Messam, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Mitchell Karpik, Lachlan Boshier, Tom Sanders, Michael Leitch
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Brad Weber, Finlay Christie, Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald, Damian McKenzie, Charlie Ngatai, Anton Lienert-Brown, Johnny Fa’auli, Tim Nanai-Williams, Solomon Alaimalo, Sam McNicol, James Lowe, Chase Tiatia, Toni Pulu, Glen Fisiiahi, Shaun Stevenson