Eleven players join the Crusaders squad for the first time in 2016, and a further four players have been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has also confirmed that they are considering a co-captaincy model for next year with Ryan Crotty sharing the Kieran Read, who is set to take over the All Blacks captaincy.
Blackadder said they would discuss the arrangement with Read following the Rugby World Cup.
One of the challenges is making sure the focus is on this team in this competition. Sometimes if you've got a captain who is leading another team, they can become distracted," said Blackadder.
Prop Michael Alaalatoa and loose forwards Pete Samu and Tim Boys will bolster the forwards in 2016. They each join the squad off the back of impressive ITM Cup campaigns, Alaalatoa for Manawatu, Samu for Tasman and Boys for Southland.
"These are three players who will add some significant strength to our squad. They have more than proven themselves at provincial level and we believe that they are ready to make the step up to Super Rugby," said Blackadder.
Also stepping up in the forwards are prop Alex Hodgman, who has been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group and lock Mitchell Dunshea, who has been named in the 2016 Wider Training Group after having an outstanding debut season for Canterbury.
The Crusaders will have a new look backline in 2016, with seven new backs added to the group. The fly-half spot will be contested by Richie Mo’unga, who has been promoted from the 2015 Wider Training Group, Fijian international Ben Volavola who has moved from the Waratahs, and Marty McKenzie who shifts from the Chiefs.
"We have been watching these men closely over the Rugby World Cup and ITM Cup campaigns and we are excited with the potential we see in all of them. There is a real opportunity for these guys to step up and fill some very big boots and we are confident that they will grasp that opportunity in 2016," Blackadder said.
Tasman midfielder David Havili is another player who has earned the call up to the full squad from last season’s Wider Training Group, while halfback Leon Fukofuka will move down from Auckland to take a spot in the Wider Training Group for next year.
There are a few new faces in the outside backs for next season. Sione Fifita joins the Crusaders from the Counties Manukau Steelers; NZ Under 20s player Mitchell Hunt moves down from Nelson, and Maori All Black Sean Wainui makes the shift from Taranaki.
"We have put a real focus on building more strength and power in our back line for 2016 and that’s where these signings have come from. We are hugely excited about the potential that we see in these players and about the overall profile of next year’s squad with the addition of these talented young backs," Blackadder said.
Four players are currently listed as Medical Exemptions because they have long term injuries; they are Tim Perry, Jed Brown, Jack Goodhue and Israel Dagg. They are listed in the Wider Training Group and their contract place is taken by another player to meet the required squad of 32. All Wider Training Group players can be selected as full squad members.
"Having these long-term injuries has made the contracting process a little more complicated this year, but it has also opened up fantastic opportunities for some other players. The four players who are currently injured are all incredibly valuable to us and we know that they will make a big impact when they return to fitness.
"In addition, we have a number of players who will join the Crusaders from the beginning of our pre-season training and these players will become available to us if any further injuries rule players out. They are Reed Prinsep, Oliver Jager, George Bridge, Jack Stratton and Hamish Dalzell. This is a great group of men who we are lucky to have with the group, and who we know will take their opportunities if they get them," Blackadder said.
Blackadder said he is thrilled with the squad the Crusaders have selected for 2016 and excited to have a number of young, new players in the mix.
"We believe that we have got the mix right, with some experienced, reliable and strong players up front, plus some big, powerful and fast players in the backline. I can’t wait to work with this group and create some exciting rugby in 2016."
Crusaders 2016 Super Rugby squad:
Forwards: Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Tim Boys*, Jordan Taufua, Pete Samu*, Scott Barrett, Jimmy Tupou, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Wyatt Crockett, Joe Moody, Alex Hodgman, Owen Franks, Michael Alaalatoa, Ben Funnell, Codie Taylor, Ged Robinson.
Backs: Mitchell Hunt*, Sean Wainui*, Johnny McNicholl, Sione Fifita*, Jone Macilai, Nemani Nadolo, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Kieron Fonotia, David Havili, Marty McKenzie*, Richie Mo'unga*, Ben Volavola*, Mitchell Drummond, Andy Ellis.
Medical List: Tim Perry, Jed Brown, Jack Goodhue, Israel Dagg
Wider training group: Leon Fukofuka, Mitchell Dunshea.