Highlanders unveil co-captains
Highlanders unveil co-captainsSHARE
All Black wing Ben Smith and loose forward Nasi Manu will lead the Highlanders in 2014 as co-captains.
Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph said the duo’s selection was reflective of the approach the team would be taking to the 2014 Super Rugby season.
“As a coaching group, we’ve selected two players we know will lead from the front and who have the experience and respect of the whole squad.
“The role of captain in a Super Rugby team is vital to the success of the team, and sharing the workload between two complementary players was a big part of our decision,” he said.
Smith has played 72 games for the Highlanders since making his Super Rugby debut in 2009 against the Brumbies. He’s played 18 Tests for the All Blacks and has recently been selected to travel with the team to the United Kingdom for the end-of-year tour.
Manu has played 49 Super Rugby games after making his debut in 2008 for the Crusaders and has played 33 games for the Highlanders since joining the franchise in 2010.
The 2014 squad of 37 is made up of 32 players on full contracts and five players in the wider training group, with 23 players returning from the 2013 season.
Kurt Baker returns to the Highlanders after a season with the Crusaders, and he is joined in the backs by Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland), Patrick Osborne (Canterbury), Bay of Plenty captain Willie Ripia and Winston Stanley (Force).
In the forwards, Tasman captain Shane Christie joins the southern franchise, alongside Pumas International Matias Diaz, Kane Hames (Bay of Plenty) and Otago players Tom Franklin and Gareth Evans.
The wider training group includes two Otago players in Lee Allan and Craig Miller, as well as Richard Buckman (Hawke’s Bay), Trent Renata (Waikato) and Ged Robinson (Hawke’s Bay).
Joseph commented that the squad is well balanced and has depth across the board.
“We’re very pleased with the quality of players in our squad of 37 for next season. We have a core group of players returning from 2013, which allows continuity, but to have 14 new faces brings new ideas and enthusiasm”
The Highlanders begin their season with a home match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday, February 22against the Blues.
2014 Highanders squad:
Forwards: Josh Bekhuis, Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Matias Diaz, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, Ma’afu Fia, Tom Franklin, Kane Hames, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, TJ Ioane, Chris King, Nasi Manu, Brayden Mitchell, Brad Thorn, Joe Wheeler.
Backs: Kurt Baker, Phil Burleigh, Jason Emery, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne, Hayden Parker, Buxton Popoalii, Willie Ripia, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Winston Stanley, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson.
Wider training group: Lee Allan, Richard Buckman, Craig Millar, Trent Renata & Ged Robinson.