Tasman have named an impressive squad that features four All Blacks, 21 Super Rugby stars and a German teenager to defend their Mitre 10 Cup crown.
Co-head coaches Andrew Goodman and Clarke Dermody announced on Saturday a 32-man roster that boasts experience, depth and talent across the board.
Nine players from the Super Rugby Aotearoa-winning Crusaders squad have been included, with perhaps the most notable inclusion being that of All Blacks wing Sevu Reece.
The 23-year-old is among a raft of new faces in the Mako squad after joining the province from Waikato for the 2020 campaign.
He joins fellow newbie and standout Blues rookie Mark Telea, who has signed on after previously representing North Harbour, in a talent-laden outside back contingent that features captain David Havili, Will Jordan, Tima Fainga’anuku and Jamie Spowart.
Reece and Telea aren’t the only new signings, with the Mako calling upon the services of former stars from years gone by.
Ex-Maori All Blacks hooker Quentin MacDonald and Manu Samoa midfielder Kieron Fonotia have re-joined the side after five and four year stints in European club rugby, respectively.
Fonotia’s international teammate Dwayne Polataivao has also been recruited from the Utah Warriors in Major League Rugby, while Crusaders prop Isi Tu’ungafasi, younger brother of All Blacks star Ofa, has shifted down from Northland.
All of those players will add a multitude of experience that should balance out the exciting youth provided by the likes of Mitre 10 Cup rookie and former New Zealand Schools star Anton Segner.
The 19-year-old loose forward has been included in the Tasman squad in his first year out of school after having impressed for the Nelson College 1st XV since moving to New Zealand from Germany three years ago.
Segner had only planned on spending six months in New Zealand when he first arrived, but now he harbours hopes of becoming the first German to play for the All Blacks after signing a two-season deal with Tasman last year.
Standing at 1.92m and 108kg, he looms as a formidable prospect and could earn substantial game time should Highlanders loose forward Shannon Frizell be tied up with All Blacks commitments over the coming months.
Even if COVID-19 forces the international schedule to deteriorate, Ethan Blackadder’s knee injury could pave the way for Segner to shine in his debut campaign of first-class rugby.
Blackadder is among a group of six players – which includes standout Highlanders lock Pari Pari Parkinson, Chiefs and All Blacks prop Atu Moli and veteran Hurricanes playmaker James Marshall – that have been ruled out for the season through injury.
Their voids have been filled by four local club players – Louie Chapman, Braden Stewart, Max Hicks, Kershawl Sykes Martin – who will train with the squad as “potential injury replacements”.
Tasman will begin their title defence next Saturday when they travel to Pukekohe to take on Counties Manukau.
2020 Tasman Mitre 10 Cup squad:
Hookers: Quentin MacDonald, Andrew Makalio, Sam Moli
Props: Ryan Coxon, Tyrel Lomax, Sam Matenga, Isaac Salmon, Isieli Tu’ungafasi
Locks: Alex Ainley, Te Ahiwaru Cirikdaveta, Mahroni Ngakuru, Quinten Strange
Loose Forwards: Taina Fox-Matamua, Shannon Frizell, Sione Havili, Jacob Norris, Hugh Renton, Anton Segner
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, Dwayne Polataivao
First Fives: Mitch Hunt, Tim O’Malley
Midfielders: Keiron Fonotia, Alex Nankivell, Fetuli Paea, Leicester Fainga’anuku
Outside Backs: Tima Fainga’anuku, David Havili (c), Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Jamie Spowart, Mark Telea
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