The 26 ‘rookies’, defined as those players who have signed their first full-time Super Rugby Aotearoa contracts, is well down on the 46 new faces named in the 2020 squads.
A total of 193 contracted players have been named across the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes with the Blues and Chiefs each still to add one additional player.
The rookie class of 2021 includes the youngest player, Auckland hooker Soane Vikena, who joins the Blues at 19-years, 5 months and one day old, more than 17 years younger than the oldest contracted player - two-Test All Black lock and newly minted Highlander Bryn Evans.
Evans (Hawke’s Bay), who has previously played for the Blue and Hurricanes, returns to Sky Super Rugby for the first time since 2009. Otago prop Josh Hohneck (Highlanders), and Hawke’s Bay wing Lolagi Visinia (Hurricanes), also return to Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa after lengthy absences overseas.
The official rookies’ class of 2020 is:
Highlanders (3): Sam Gilbert (Otago), Jermaine Ainsley**, Kazuki Himeno**
Crusaders (4): Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Chay Fihaki, Isaiah Punivai (Canterbury)
Chiefs (7): Ollie Norris, Simon Parker, Xavier Roe, Rivez Reihana (Waikato), Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Kaylum Boshier (Taranaki)
Hurricanes (5): Tevita Mafileo, Luke Campbell (Bay of Plenty), Ruben Love, Pepesana Patafilo (Wellington), Brayden Iose (Manawatu)
Blues (7): Soane Vikena, AJ Lam, James Lay, Zarn Sullivan (Auckland), Sam Darry (Canterbury), Taine Plumtree (Wellington), Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki)
** Foreign player new to Super Rugby Aotearoa
Super Rugby Aotearoa moves:
First-five Bryn Gatland – to the Chiefs from the Highlanders
Outside back Solomon Alaimalo - to the Highlanders from the Chiefs
Prop Sione Mafileo – to the Chiefs from the Blues
Loose forward Billy Harmon - to the Highlanders from the Crusaders
Utility back Fetuli Paea – to the Highlanders from the Crusaders
Utility back Chase Tiatia – to the Chiefs from the Hurricanes
Prop Nepo Laulala – to the Blues from the Chiefs
Loose forward Dillon Hunt – to the Blues from the Highlanders
See the full squads below: