The Roar
The Roar


Super Rugby teams: Marky clear for Crusaders clash, Blues rest two All Blacks after just ONE week, DMac to face Brumbies

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1st March, 2024
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The competition heads to Melbourne for Super Round this weekend with the pressure already on some of the Australian franchises after the opening games.

Included in that are the Waratahs who were soundly beaten by the Reds last week and will be missing Test centre Izzy Perese due to concussion.

There was some good news for the Tahs on Friday with Mark Nawaqanitawase cleared by coach Darren Coleman for the match against Crusaders after battling a hamstring strain.

“Mark’s a big-game player and a game changer,” Coleman said.

“We’re going to need to improve and we’re going to need to score tries and he’s definitely good at that.”

New Blues coach Vern Cotter has also rested two big name All Blacks, citing “work load management”.

See all the teams below and check back later for updates.


All times are AEDT


Highlanders vs Blues, 6pm

Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Akira Ioane return to the Blues side after injury – but Rieko Ioane misses out with a minor hamstring issue.

Blues coach Vern Cotter has made several changes to his side, but it was his decision to give Ioane a spell and halfback Finlay Christie, citing “load management”. Good luck coming to grips with that after one round.

“It’s rotation,” said Cotter, who returns to New Zealand rugby for the first time since 2006.

“There will be rotations all the way through. At the moment there’s management of players, so we’re taking that into account.


“We’re going to need everybody in this squad, so it’s important we rotate. I’ve come out of some big seasons before and know the importance of getting to the end of the season reasonably fresh. If we can do that and manage them the right way without too many injuries, it’s all part of the game.”

Cotter did reveal Ioane had a tweak to his hamstring, but admitted he would have been rolled out if it was a knockout match.

“We’re going to need our entire squad fit and firing in this campaign and halfback is no exception. We’ve got three quality players in that position and Taufa gets his chance to impress on Friday night,” said Cotter.

“Rieko felt his hammy a little against the Drua so this is an opportune time to manage his workload and make sure that’s 100 per cent.”

Even so, Cotter has brought back some big additions.

“It’s great to welcome back Akira and Ofa this weekend, both are high quality players who we’re sure will make a big impact on Friday night,” said Cotter.

“Ofa joins a new-look front row for this match, it’s crucial we build depth in those tight forward positions and to welcome someone of his calibre back to the starting team is very pleasing.

Akira Ioane of the Blues charges forward

Akira Ioane. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

“Akira is a big, bruising loosie who imposes himself on any match. He’s starting to dial it up at training so it will be good to let him loose on the opposition this weekend.

“Laghlan McWhannell gets his crack at lock, he’s been impressive through the pre-season and is itching to get out there. We were really impressed with Josh Beehre in his debut match last weekend and we’re happy with the depth we are building in that position.”

In the backs, Taufa Funaki gets a start at halfback while Bryce Heem and AJ Lam have a chance to impress in the midfield.

All Blacks prop Ethan De Groot comes into the No.1 jersey for the Highlanders in a little-changed team.

Ajay Faleafaga is poised for a debut off the bench, replacing Cam Millar in the matchday 23. Lock Fabian Holland moves to the bench.


HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Henry Bell, Jermaine Ainsley, Pari Pari Parkinson, Max Hicks, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon (c), Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Rhys Patchell, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Tanielu Tele’a, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.

RESERVES: Ricky Jackson, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Fabian Holland, Nikora Broughton, Nathan Hastie, Ajay Faleafaga, Jonah Lowe.

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Laghlan McWhannell, Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i (c), Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam, Mark Tele’a, Zarn Sullivan.

RESERVES: Soane Vikena, Joshua Fusitu’a, Angus Ta’avao, Josh Beehre, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Harry Plummer, Cole Forbes.

Referee: Angus Gardner

Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Reuben Keane

Rebels vs Force, 8.10pm


Rebels coach Kevin Foote has responded from his side’s lacklustre start against the Brumbies by making four changes to his side for Friday’s clash against the Force.

Two of the changes are in the front-row, with Alex Mafi named to start alongside his former Reds teammate Taniela Tupou.

Taniela Tupou will start for the Rebels. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Their inclusions are smart ones, with the Force down on numbers in the tight-five, particularly in the front-row, and Tupou will be tasked with taking them to the cleaners.

After Jack Maunder struggled for quick service and was targeted in defence, James Tuttle has come in at halfback. Ryan Louwrens is the replacement halfback.

The final change in the backline sees one-Test All Black Matt Proctor start at outside centre, which sees Filipo Daugunu pushed to the wing.

Meanwhile, Force coach Simon Cron has had some welcomednews with captain Jeremy Williams named in the second-row after missing last week’s opener with concussion symptoms. He will partner Tom Franklin.


The only other change in the pack sees former Chiefs and Crusaders prop Ryan Coxon come in for the suspended Marley Pearce.

On the bench, Feleti Kaitu’u has been named ahead of Ben Funnell.

REBELS (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Josh Canham, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota (c), James Tuttle, Carter Gordon, Filipo Daugunu, David Feliuai, Matt Proctor, Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway.

RESERVES: Jordan Uelese, Isaac Kailea, Sam Talakai, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Ryan Louwrens, Jake Strachan, Nick Jooste.

FORCE (1-15):  Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Jeremy Williams, Thomas Franklin, Michael Wells, Carlo Tizzano, Will Harris, Nic White, Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Harry Potter, Max Burey.

RESERVES: Feleti Kaitu’u, Charlie Hancock, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Tim Anstee, Lopeti Faifua, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, George Poolman.

Referee: Nic Berry


Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, James Doleman


Moana Pasifika vs Fijian Drua, 5pm

Drua coach Mick Byrne has maintained the front row and entire starting backline from last week. He has made one tactical change at lock and has brought new wing signing Junior Ratuva onto the bench.

The matchday 23 also sees the return of the Fiji’s Rugby World Cup hero Simione Kuruvoli for the first time in a Super Rugby Pacific match since 2022. Two Flying Fijians forwards Haereiti Hetet and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta also mark their return in season 2024 in what will be another fiery encounter between the two Pacific sides.

Moana Pasifika newcomer Sione Havili Talitui will captain the team.

Head coach Fa’alogo Tana Umaga says the four-time title winner with the Crusaders will have a positive influence on the team.


“He’s a leader that leads with his actions. He’s got so much knowledge and he gives players confidence on the field,” Umaga said.

“For him it’s just understanding that he’s the player first and as we always talk about in terms of captains, you have to be the player first rather than the captain first. He’ll do that and then hopefully we’ll develop his ability to lead.”

Moana Pasifika are searching for their first victory over the Drua.

With some players being monitored for injuries, the forward pack has seen some changes.

“Injuries were the catalyst to the majority of our thinking. It would’ve come down to the last minute decisions and some of the inexperience of some of our group to handle that came into our thinking,” Umaga said.

“We talk about trusting our squad all the time and this is an opportunity for us to show that. We have faith in our players and we know they’ll give their all. It’s a lot earlier than we would’ve hoped but that’s the way rugby is.”

After a standout performance in his debut against the Highlanders last week, Jacob Norris earns a starting spot at blindside, along with talented youngster Allan Craig who will start at lock. Abraham Pole will also replace Captain James Lay at loosehead prop.


Majority of the Moana Pasifika backline remains the same except for one change in the middle, as Henry Taefu comes into the centre position.

Australian veterans Christian Lealiifano and Sekope Kepu also return to the lineup, named on the bench.

PASIFIKA (1-15): Abraham Pole, Sama Malolo, Sione Mafileo, Tom Savage, Allan Craig, Jacob Norris, Sione Havili Talitui, Lotu Inisi, Ereatara Enari, William Havili, Viliami Fine, Julian Savea, Henry Taefu, Nigel Ah Wong, Danny Toala

RESERVES: Samiuela Moli, Sateki Latu, Sekope Kepu, Ola Tauelangi, Irie Papuni, Aisea Halo, Christian Lealiifano, Kyren Taumoefolau

DRUA (1-15): Livai Natave, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Mesake Vocevoce, Isoa Nasilasila, Etonia Waqa, Ella Canakaivata, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Selestino Ravutaumada, Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Epeli Momo, Isikeli Rabitu

RESERVES: Mesulame Dolokoto, Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Vilive Miramira, Simione Kuruvoli, Kemu Valetini, Junior Ratuva

Referee: Paul Williams


Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Mike Winter.

Crusaders vs Waratahs, 7.35pm

The Waratahs have lost Izaia Perese wfor Saturday’s crunch match against the Crusaders.

The injury to Perese has seen Harry Wilson start for the first time in the midfield alongside Joey Walton, while Mosese Tuipulotu comes onto the bench alongside Triston Reilly. Jack Bowen drops out of the 23.

Elsewhere, the Waratahs have tweaked their pack with Hugh Sinclair starting in the second-row ahead of Miles Amatosero, who drops back to the bench.

The other couple of changes are on the bench, with Wallaby Ned Hanigan returning. Eastern Suburbs hooker Julian Heaven has been included ahead of Theo Fourie.

Ned Hanigan of the Waratahs looks on

(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)


“Mark has pulled up with some hamstring soreness from Tuesday training,” Coleman said. “He is having scans and receiving treatment, and we will give him until later in the week to prove his fitness.

“We’re fortunate that Triston Reilly has successfully recovered from his ankle injury, and he will come into the starting side if Mark is unable to play.”

All Blacks tighthead prop Tamaiti Williams and young No 10 Rivez Reihana have been ruled out because of hamstring and shoulder injuries as Rob Penney gears up for a clash against the club that sacked him.

But it’s not all bad news with a couple of big names returning.

All Blacks prop Fletcher Newell returns at tight-head prop in the absence of Williams, while young gun Taha Kemara comes in at fly-half to team up with his former high school class mate Noah Hotham in the halves

Helping the youngster will be the return of David Havili at inside centre, as he teams up alongside Levi Aumua for the first time. Dallas McLeod drops back to the bench.

CRUSADERS (1-15): George Bower, George Bell, Fletcher Newell, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Dominic Gardiner, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Noah Hotham, Taha Kemara, Macca Springer, David Havili, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki


RESERVES: Quentin MacDonald, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Christian Lio-Willie, Mitchell Drummond, Ryan Crotty, Dallas McLeod

WARATAHS (1-15):Angus Bell, Mahe Vailanu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Hugh Sinclair, Fergus Lee-Warner, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Tane Edmed, Dylan Pietsch, Joey Walton, Harry Wilson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen

RESERVES: Julian Heaven, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Dan Botha, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan, Teddy Wilson, Mosese Tuipulotu, Triston Reilly

Referee: James Mabey

Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Dan Waenga



Chiefs vs Brumbies, 2pm

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has named a settled side from the one that smashed the Rebels, making just one change to his team for Sunday’s clash against the Chiefs.

The sole change is in the pack, with Sosefo Kautai starting ahead of Rhys Van Nek at tight-head prop.
The only other change sees Harrison Goddard come onto the bench as Ryan Lonergan’s deputy at halfback.

Otherwise it’s a strong side named by Larkham, with Wallabies littered throughout.

It’s the first time the two sides have met since the Chiefs knocked the Brumbies out of last year’s competition in the semi-finals.

Chiefs gun Damian McKenzie has overcome the rib issue that forced him off in the win over Crusaders to be named at No.10 in a potential pre-Bledisloe match up with Noah Lolesio.

“He’s still a little bit tender, but the medical advice is he’s going to be fine,” coach Clayton McMillan said.


There is one enforced change to the backline, with fellow All Black Quinn Tupaea out after the concussion sustained last Friday night, replaced at inside centre by vice-captain Rameka Poihipi.

Damian McKenzie has been named to start against the Brumbies at fly-half despite copping a rib injury last week during their first-up win over the Crusaders. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Bradley Slater will celebrate his 50th match for the Chiefs, picked in the tight five alongside All Black lock Tupou Vaa’i as well as Ollie Norris, George Dyer and Manaaki Selby-Rickit.

Xavier Roe starts at halfback. In the midfield, Rameka Poihipi steps into second-five alongside the experienced Anton Lienert-Brown with Quinn Tupaea ruled out.

The backline from round one remains unchanged with Etene Nanai-Seturo and Liam Coombes-Fabling on the wing and Shaun Stevenson at fullback.

CHIEFS (1-15): Ollie Norris, Bradley Slater, George Dyer, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Tupou Vaa’i, Samipeni Finau, Kalyum Boshier, Luke Jacobson (c), Xavier Roe, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Anton Lienert-Brown, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Jared Proffit, Reuben O’Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi,, Simon Parker, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona


BRUMBIES (1-15): James Slipper, Lachlan Lonergan, Sosefo Kautai, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rob Valetini, Luke Reimer, Charlie Cale, Ryan Lonergan (c), Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Ollie Sapsford, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright

RESERVES: Billy Pollard, Blake Schoupp, Rhys Van Nek, Cadeyrn Neville, Jahrome Brown, Harrison Goddard, Declan Meredith, Tamati Tua

Hurricanes vs Reds, 4.30pm

Queensland Reds coach Les Kiss has made just one change for his side’s clash against the Hurricanes, promoting Wallaby Jock Campbell to the run-on side.

Campbell, who was one of the Reds’ best during the trials, will start on the left-wing in an all-Australian back three alongside fullback Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu. Mac Grealy has dropped back to the bench.

“Jock gets his chance this weekend after his brilliant form in the trials. This is an opportunity for me to see him as a winger,” Kiss said.


“It’s great to have such riches in the backline. Mac served us very well against the Waratahs with his work rate and edge defence and he’ll enter the game from the bench at wing or fullback.”

Jock Campbell of the Reds

Jock Campbell has been named on the wing for the Reds. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Up against a physical Hurricanes side, with plenty of muscle up front, Kiss will be glad to name an unchanged forward pack.

Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw has had to make several changes with loose forwards Du’Plessis Kirifi and Devan Flanders ruled out through injury, while he’s also brought some key All Blacks into the fold.
After coming off the bench in the win over the Force, Cam Roigard returns to the starting halfback position, while Jordi Viljoen, who made an instant impression on debut, reverts to the bench.

Brayden Iose comes into the team at No.8, along with TK Howden at blindside flanker, while Peter Lakai makes the shift to openside.
Tight-head Prop Tyrel Lomax also returns to the starting XV, while loose forward Veveni Lasaqa will make his SRP debut from the bench.
Besides Roigard, the backline remains the same, and Asafo Aumua and Jordie Barrett will have the co-captain bands on.

The game will mark Jordie Barrett’s 100th Super Rugby match as he joins his brother and former Hurricane Beauden Barrett in the centurion club.

HURRICANES (1-15): Xavier Numea, Asafo Aumua (co-c), Tyrel Lomax, Caleb Delany, Isaia Walker-Leawere, TK Howden, Peter Lakai, Brayden Iose, Cam Roigard, Brett Cameron, Kini Naholo, Jordie Barrett (co-c), Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love


RESERVES: James O’Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi, Justin Sangster, Veveni Lasaqa, Jordi Viljoen, Riley Higgins, Salesi Rayasi

REDS (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Seru Uru, Ryan Smith, Liam Wright (co-c), Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (co-c), Tom Lyngah, Jock Campbell, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suli Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia

RESERVES: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Sef Fa’agase, Cormac Daly, John Bryant, Kalani Thomas, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Mac Grealy

Referee: James Doleman

Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Damon Murphy