A total 33 players will make their debut in the 2017 Investec Super Rugby season, reflecting the depth of talent in New Zealand rugby.
A total of 190 contracted players have been announced across the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders Super Rugby squads today.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager of Rugby Neil Sorensen said the mix of new players coming through and experienced players staying highlighted the stability of New Zealand rugby.
“New Zealand teams dominated Investec Super Rugby this year, so for 33 new players to force their way into already strong squads shows the exciting depth of talent the teams have to choose from.
“It’s great that we have been able to retain most of the experienced players that made our Super Rugby teams so successful in 2016. Our squads are stable and will be strengthened by the talented crop of young players making their debut next year.
“Super Rugby is a recognised pathway into higher honours and offers new players a chance to put themselves forward for national selection. In total there are eight players who played for the New Zealand Under 20 side this year, showing that New Zealand rugby continues to develop and promote outstanding young players and transition them through to the top tier of the game.
“The strong crop of young talent pushing through will be exciting to watch. The youngest player in the New Zealand Super Rugby teams is Rieko Ioane, who will turn 20 just after the season starts next year, and who has already forced his way into the All Blacks squad on the current northern tour.
“Next year’s Super Rugby squads are a bit of a family affair with seven sets of brothers represented in the selections. The Barrett, Whitelock, McKenzie, Ioane, Savea and Lienert-Brown brothers and the Goodhue twins show that rugby really is a game for all the family to enjoy, literally.
“The 2017 season also sees some changes in the coaching teams with Tony Brown becoming Head Coach of the Highlanders and Scott Robertson taking the helm at the Crusaders. They both join the Blues’ Head Coach Tana Umaga as former All Blacks who are showing their acumen as professional coaches. Dave Rennie will be looking for a solid last season with the Chiefs and no doubt Chris Boyd will be looking to back up their championship win.
“We wish all the teams well and look forward to seeing New Zealand teams having a great presence in the competition again.”
The season gets under way on Thursday 23 February in Melbourne when the Rebels will host the Blues. 2017 will see games held on a Thursday for the first time. The Highlanders will play the Chiefs on Friday 24 February. The Hurricanes will launch their title defense against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday 25 February and the Crusaders will start their season against the Brumbies in Christchurch on the same day.
Super Rugby debutants will attend a one-day induction with New Zealand Rugby in late November.