The annual Super Rugby tournament is just around the corner, and with under a month to go until the 2015 season kicks off, it’s worthwhile to take a look at all the big moves that happened in the off-season.
Fox Sports has wrapped up some of the most notable changes and recruits that the 15 respective teams have managed to secure:
The loss of captain and lineout general Ben Mowen leaves a sizeable hole to fill at the Brumbies, but Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham have sought to address the issue through the signings of young locks Rory Arnold and Blake Enever. Nigel Ah Wong’s Japanese stint has ended after just one season, with the former Red expected to push for a starting place on the Brumbies’ wing..
INS: Nigel Ah Wong (centre, from Coca Cola West Red Sparks), Rory Arnold (lock, from UC Vikings), James Dargaville (winger, from Sydney Stars), Sean Doyle (flanker, from Ulster), Blake Enever (lock, from Queensland Country), Les Makin (prop, from UC Vikings), Lausii Taliauli (winger, from UC Vikings).
OUTS: Lionel Cronje (flyhalf, to Sharks), Conrad Hoffman (halfback, to Sharks), Luke Holmes (hooker, to North Harbour Rays), Pat McCabe (centre, retired), Lachlan McCaffrey (no. 8, to London Welsh), Tom McVerry (flanker, released), Ben Mowen (no. 8, to Montpellier), Ruaidhri Murphy (prop, to Ulster), Leon Power (lock, to Oyonnax), Clyde Rathbone (winger, retired), Andrew Smith (centre, to Munster), Stephan van der Walt (winger, released), Jack Whetton (lock, to Auckland).
The Rebels have added depth to their backline in the off-season, with former Wallabies and Reds centre Mike Harris moving south along with Cam Crawford, Dom Shipperley, Jonah Placid and Sefanaia Naivalu. NSW Shute Shield stars Steve Cummins and Tim Metcher have moved south to cover the loss of promising lock Hugh Pyle, Tongan prop Eddie Aholelei and the retired Chris Thomson.
INS: Cam Crawford (winger, from Waratahs), Steve Cummins (lock, from Eastwood), Mike Harris (centre, from Reds), Tim Metcher (prop, form Southern Districts), Sefanaia Naivalu (centre, from Rising), Jonah Placid (fullback, form Reds), Dom Shipperley (winger, from Reds).
Centre Mike Harris has joined the Melbourne Rebels on a two-year deal.Source: Supplied
OUTS: Eddie Aholelei (prop, to London Welsh), Lalakai Foketi (centre, to Bayonne), Steve Fualau (hooker, to Beziers), Josh Holmes (halfback, to North Harbour Rays), Lachlan Mitchell (centre, retired), Hugh Pyle (lock, to Stade Francais), Angus Roberts (flyhalf, to Sydney Stars), Alex Rokobaro (fullback, to Calvisano), Chris Thomson (lock, retired), Jason Woodward (fullback, to Hurricanes).
Recruitment has been minimal at Moore Park, with The ‘Tahs’ biggest off-season coup their re-signing of star playmaker Kurtley Beale on a one-year contract extension. Big Kiwi Sam Lousi has traded codes and countries for 2015, arriving from the NRL’s New Zealand Warriors to cover the loss of Kane Douglas to Leinster. NRC success story Andrew Kellaway adds to Michael Cheika’s embarrassment of riches on the wing.
INS: Andrew Kellaway (winger, from NSW Country Eagles), Sam Lousi (lock, from NZ Warriors NRL).
OUTS: Michael Alaalatoa (prop, to NSW Country Eagles), Alofa Alofa (winger, to La Rochelle), Cam Crawford (winger, to Rebels), Kane Douglas (lock, to Leinster), Hugh Roach (hooker, to Greater Sydney Rams).
The Reds have added star power to their back line in 2015, luring James O’Connor back to Australia after a successful stint in France and code-hopper Karmichael Hunt from the AFL’s Gold Coast Suns. School boy prodigy Taniela Tupou, better known as ‘Tongan Thor,’ has also made the move to Ballymore, while young playmaker Duncan Paia’aua has been lured form the NRL’s Brisbane Broncos to play understudy to Quade Cooper in the halves.
INS: Karmichael Hunt (fullback, from Gold Coast Suns AFL), Campbell Magnay (centre, from Queensland Country), James O’Connor (winger, form Toulon), Duncan Paia’aua (flyhalf, from Brisbane Broncos), Adam Thomson (flanker, from Canon Eagles), Hendrik Tui (No.8, from Suntory Sungoliath), Taniela Tupou (prop, from Sacred Heart College).
OUTS: Albert Anae (hooker, to Benetton Treviso), Tim Buchanan (flanker, to Brisbane City), Rod Davies (fullback, to Biarritz), Sef Fa’agase (prop, to Brisbane City), Scott Gale (halfback, to Queensland Country), Mike Harris (centre, to Rebels), Sam Johnson (centre, to Queensland Country), Ben Lucas (flyhalf, to Montpellier), Jono Owen (prop, to Grenoble), Pettowa Paraka (prop, to Brisbane City), Jonah Placid (fullback, to Rebels), Andrew Ready (hooker, to wider training squad), Dom Shipperley (winger, to Rebels), Aidan Toua (centre, to Agen).
The Force’s biggest coup this off-season actually appears in their departures list – but Michael Foley will be “going off like a bag of cats” after securing winger Nick Cummins’ return on loan just months after he signed with Japanese side Coca Cola West Red Sparks. Former Waratahs and Leicester Tigers breakaway Steve Mafi has relocated to Perth in 2015 and like Cummins is sure to become a cult hero with fans.
INS: Steve Mafi (flanker, from Leicester Tigers), Martino Nemani (winger, from Bay of Plenty), Albert Nikoro (fullback, from Blues), Rory Walton (flanker, form extended squad).
OUTS: Phoenix Battye (lock, to Beziers), Luke Burton (centre, to Perth Spirit), Nick Cummins (winger, to Coca Cola West Red Sparks — returning on loan for 2015), Jayden Hayward (centre, to Benetton Treviso), Ryan Hodson (flanker, to Jersey), Dylan Leyds (fullback, to Western Province), Kieran Longbottom (prop, to Saracens), Salesi Manu (prop, to Benetton Treviso), Hugh McMenanmin (flanker, to Honda Heat), Ed Stubbs (winger, to NSW Country Eagles), Chris Tuatara-Morrison (centre, to Castres), Justin Turner (halfback, to Perth Spirit), Francois van Wyk (prop, to extended squad).
The Auckland-based Blues have lost one All Blacks halfback and gained another. World Cup winner Piri Weepu is off to London Welsh and will; be replaced by former Highlander Jimmy Cowan, who has been playing for Gloucester. All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu is a big loss to the backline after returning to the Hurricanes.
INS: Josh Bekhuis (lock, from Highlanders), Dan Bowden (flyhalf, from Leicester Tigers), Jimmy Cowan (halfback, from Gloucester), Joe Edwards (flanker, from Auckland), Ben Lam (winger, from Auckland), Hamish Northcott (centre, from Manawatu), Culum Retallick (lock, form Bay of Plenty).
OUTS: Kane Barrett (flanker, released), Tom Donnelly (lock, to Montpellier), Baden Kerr (flyhalf, released), Benji Marshall (fullback, to Dragons NRL), Tom McCartney (prop, to Connacht), Liaki Moli (lock, released), Albert Nikoro (winger, to Force), Chris Noakes (flyhalf, to London Irish), Ma’a Nonu (centre, to Hurricanes), Piri Weepu (halfback, to London Welsh), Jackson Willison (centre, to Grenoble).
Code-hopping superstar Sonny Bill Williams headlines the ‘ins’ at the two-time champions. Williams helped the Chiefs to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2012 and, along with former All Blacks winger Hosea Gear, who returns to New Zealand after stints in France and Japan, adds power and class to a Chiefs backline run by Aaron Cruden.
INS: Michael Allardice (lock, form Hawke’s Bay), Johan Bardoul (flanker, from Waikato), Hosea Gear (winger, from Honda Heat), Mitchell Graham (prop, from Taranaki), Bryce Heem (winger, from Tasman), Michael Leitch (no. 8, from Toshiba Brave Lupus), Quentin MacDonald (hooker, from Munster), Damian McKenzie (fullback, from Waikato), Sean Polwart (flanker, from Auckland), Seta Tamanivalu (centre, from Taranaki), Siate Tokolahi (prop, from Canterbury), Sonny Bill Williams (centre, from Roosters NRL).
OUTS: Bundee Aki (centre, to Connacht), Gaeth Anscombe (fullback, to Cardiff Blues), Nick Barrett (prop, released), Nick Crosswell (flanker, released), Hikawera Elliot (hooker, released), Ross Filipo (flanker, retired), Robbie Fruean (centre, to Crusaders), Josh Hohneck (prop, to Highlanders), Tanerau Latimer (flanker, to Toshiba Brave Lupus), Mils Muliaina (fullback, to Connacht), Mahonri Schwalger (hooker, retired), Dwayne Sweeney (centre, to Fukuoka Sanix Blues), Kane Thompson (no. 8, to Newcastle Falcons), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (winger, to Harlequins).
The seven-time champions have largely stuck with the side that lost to the Waratahs in last year’s final. Giant centre Robbie Fruean returns to the Crusaders after a season with the Chiefs, which was cut short after he underwent heart surgery. But he impressed for Hawke’s Bay in the ITM Cup and will add depth to the Crusaders’ star-studded backline.
INS: Robbie Fruean (centre, from Chiefs), Jone Macilai (winger, from Northland), Ged Robinson (hooker, from Highlanders).
OUTS: Tyler Blyendaal (flyhalf, to Munster), Corey Flynn (hooker, to Toulouse), Zac Guildford (winger, to Clermont), Rey Lee-Lo (centre, to Hurricanes), Daniel Lienert-Brown (prop, released), Rob Thompson (centre, released), Adam Whitelock (centre, to Bayonne), George Whitelock (flanker, to Panasonic Wild Knights).
Last year’s surprise packets, who pushed the Sharks all the way in the opening week of the finals, have been active in the off-season as they look to continue their progress under coach Jamie Joseph. He has brought in a host of new faces from right across New Zealand including former Hurricane Marty Banks, the leading point-scorer in last season’s ITM Cup, who will add depth at flyhalf. Veteran lock Brad Thorn and hooker Ged Robinson are big losses in the pack.
INS: Alex Ainley (lock, from Tasman), Marty Banks (flyhalf, from Hurricanes), Ash Dixon (hooker, from Hurricanes), Brendon Edmonds (prop, from Hurricanes), Ross Geldenhuys (prop, from Tasman), Josh Hohneck (prop, from Chiefs), Waisake Naholo (winger, from Taranaki), Dan Pryor (flanker, from Northland), Mark Reddish (lock, from Hurricanes), Pingi Tala’apitaga (prop, from Bay of Plenty).
OUTS: Josh Bekhuis (lock, to Blues), Phil Burleigh (centre, to Edinburgh), Matias Diaz (prop, released), Jarrad Hoeata (lock, to Cardiff Blues), Chris King (prop, to Montpellier), JP Koen (prop, released), TJ Ioane (flanker, released), Craig Millar (prop, released), Brayden Mitchell (hooker, released), Willie Ripia (flyhalf, released), Ged Robinson (hooker, to Crusaders), Aki Seiuli (prop, released), Winston Stanley (centre, released), Brad Thorn (lock, to Leicester Tigers), Frae Wilson (halfback, released).
Prodigal son Ma’a Nonu returns to Wellington to headline the Hurricanes’ recruitment drive. The All Blacks star will be joined by another familiar face, with Reynold Lee-Lo also returning to the Canes after a season with the Crusaders. Former Melbourne Rebels fullback Jason Woodward returns to the city of his birth as he aims to fulfil his dream of playing for the All Blacks.
INS: Vince Aso (centre, from Auckland), Geoffrey Cridge (lock, from Hawke’s Bay), Chris Eves (prop, from wider training group), Callum Gibbins (flanker, from Manawatu), Wills Halaholo (centre, from Southland), Iopu Iopu-Aso (flanker, from Taranaki), Reynold Lee-Lo (centre, from Crusaders), Christian Lloyd (lock, from Wellington), Nehe Milner-Skudder (fullback, from Manawatu), Ma’a Nonu (centre, from Blues), Jason Woodward (fullback, from Rebels).
OUTS: Marty Banks (flyhalf, to Highlanders), Tim Bateman (centre, to coca Cola West Red Sparks), Ash Dixon (hooker, to Highlanders), Brendon Edmonds (prop, to Highlanders), Billy Guyton (halfback, released), Jack Lam (flanker, to Bristol), Alapati Leiua (winger, to London Wasps), Faifili Levave (flanker, to Toyota Verblitz), Hadleigh Parkes (centre, released), Mark Reddish (lock, to Highlanders), Eric Sione (prop, released), Andre Taylor (fullback, to Kintetsu Liners), Cardiff Vaega (centre, released).
Springboks hooker Adriaan Strauss headlines the Bulls’ four new acquisitions for 2015, with the Cheetahs captain returning to his first Super Rugby club. Fellow 2014 Cheetahs Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane have also relocated to Pretoria to help cover the loss of seven forwards from coach Frans Ludeke’s roster.
INS: Lappies Labuschagne (flanker, from Cheetahs), Trevor Nyakane (prop, from Cheetahs), Adriaan Strauss (hooker, from Cheetahs), Jamba Ulengo (winger, form SA Sevens).
OUTS: Clayton Blommetjies (fullback, to Cheetahs), David Bulbring (lock, to Eastern Province Kings), Louis Fouche (flyhalf, to Ricoh Black Rams), Frick Kirsten (prop, retired), Wiaan Lienberg (flanker, released), Sampie Mastriet (winger, to Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker, to Stormers), Waylon Murray (Centre, returned to Blue Bulls), Dewald Potgieter (flanker, returned to Yamaha Jublio), Jono Ross (no. 8, to Stade Francais), Wimpie van der Walt (returned to NTT docomo Red Hurricanes), Paul Willemse (lock, to Grenoble).
After another disappointing season in 2014, in which they slumped to 14th place with just four wins, the Cheetahs have turned their roster on its head for 2015. No less than 20 players have left the Free State franchise, with the departures of Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane and Johan Goosen the most noteworthy. The acquisition of playmaking ace Joe Pietersen will cover Goosen’s absence, but it could be another long year for the Cheetahs.
INS: Clayton Blommetjies (fullback, from Bulls), Willie Britz (flanker, from Lions), JP du Plessis (centre, from Montpellier), Willie du Plessis (flyhalf, from Golden Lions), JW Jonker (centre, from Lions), Devin Oosthuizen (flanker, from Eastern Province Kings), Sergeal Petersen (winger, from Eastern Province Kings), Joe Pietersen (flyhalf, from Biarritz), BG Uys (prop, from wider training group), Connie van Wyk (fullback, from Lions).
OUTS: Renier Botha (halfback, to Free State Cheetahs), Hennie Daniller (fullback, to Zebre), Rossouw de Klerk (prop, to Glasgow Warriors), Andries Ferreira (lock, to Zebre), Johan Goosen (flyhalf, to Racing Metro), Rocco Jansen (winger, to Griquas), Lappies Labuschagne (flanker, to Bulls), Ligtoring Landman (lock, to Newport Gwent Dragons), Hercu Liebenberg (hooker, released), Piet Lindeque (centre, retired), Kevin Luiters (halfback, to Eastern Province Kings), Howard Mnisi (centre, to Lions), Trevor Nyakane (prop, to Bulls), Nick Schonert (prop, to Worcester Warriors), Riaan Smit (flyhalf, to Oyonnax), Kevin Stevens (prop, to Free state Warriors), Adriaan Strauss (hooker, to Bulls), Philip van der Walt (flanker, to Biarritz), Waltie Vermeulen (lock, retired), Henco Venter (flanker, to Free State Cheetahs).
The Lions surprised many in 2014 and have retained the nucleus of the outfit that recorded seven wins last season. But their scrum has suffered a big blow with the loss of Willie Britz and Franco Van Der Merwe who led their 2014 charge. Winger Sampie Mastriet is an exciting prospect with speed to burn.
INS: Sampie Mastriet (winger, from Bulls), Howard Mnisi (centre, from Cheetahs).
OUTS: Michael Bondesio (scrumhalf, retired), Chrysander Botha (winger, to Exeter Chiefs), Willie Britz (flanker, to Cheetahs), JW Jonker (centre, to Cheetahs), Charles Marais (prop, to Eastern Province Kings), Franco van der Merwe (lock, to Ulster), Deon Van Rensburg (winger, retired), Connie van Wyk (fullback, to Cheetahs).
The Sharks have lost a trifecta of top talent, with Jacques Botes, Keegan Daniel and Jean Deysel all moving on. But the Durban franchise has launched a raid on two foreign sides: Lionel Cronje and Conrad Hoffman join from the Brumbies, while Mouritz Botha, Matt Stevens and Jack Wilson all arrive from English club Saracens.
INS: Mouritz Botha (lock, from Saracens), Renaldo Bothma (no. 8, from Pumas), Lionel Cronje (halfback, from Brumbies), Conrad Hoffman (halfback, from Brumbies), Waylon Murray (centre, from Bulls), Matt Stevens (prop, from Saracens), Jack Wilson (winger, from Saracens).
OUTS: Jacques Botes (flanker, retired), Anton Bresler (lock, to Edinburgh), Keegan Daniel (no. 8, to Kubota Spears), Jean Deysel (flanker, to Toyota Verblitz), Hansie Graaff (flyhalf, to Eastern Province Kings), Wiehahn Herbst (prop, from Ulster), Peet Marais (lock, to Brive), Charl McLeod (halfback, to Grenoble).
Consistently a top half side challenging for Super Rugby silverware, the Stormers slumped to 11th in 2014 and have cleared the decks hoping for a fresh start this season. Surprisingly, two of their best forwards in prop Pat Cilliers and hooker Dean Fourie have been the ones to depart in search of French riches, with Vincent Koch and Bongi Mbonambi recruited as cover.
INS: Vincent Koch (prop, from Pumas), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker, from Bulls).
OUTS: Gio Aplon (winger, to Grenoble), Pat Cilliers (prop, to Montpellier), Stephan Coetzee (hooker, to Griquas), Deon Fourie (hooker, to Lyon), Dylon Frylinck (halfback, to Pumas), Tazz Fuzani (lock, to Eastern Province Kings), Peter Grant (flyhalf, to La Rochelle), Brok Harris (prop, to Newport Gwent Dragons), Tiaan Liebenberg (hooker, retired), De Kock Steenkamp (lock, to Ospreys), Saliosi Tagicakibau (winger, to London Irish), Gary van Aswegen (flyhalf, to Eastern Province Kings), Michael van der Spuy (centre, to Griquas).