With New Zealand’s Super Rugby squads set to be announced on Wednesday, the rumour mill has been turning non-stop.
New Zealand’s provincial season will come to a close on Saturday night and by the end of next week plenty of the competition’s top performers will have found new homes at Super Rugby level.
Propping pair Ayden Johnstone – a former New Zealand U20 representative – and Josh Iosefa-Scott look set to join the Highlanders next year, while the first-five eighths that did battle in Friday night’s Championship final will be heading in different directions come 2019.
Both Smith and Ioane were members of the Highlanders last season, backing up Lima Sopoaga and splitting time at fullback.
Smith played a key role in Waikato’s Mitre 10 Cup resurgence, with his accurate goal-kicking and playmaking ability a deciding factor in several games this season. He also led the competition in points scored with 119.
It now seems the Dunedin-based Highlanders will be going with former Waikato first-five eighth Bryn Gatland moving forward, who confirmed that he would be joining the club in May. The incumbent Sopoaga played his final match for the team last season and is now plying his trade with Premiership club Wasps in Coventry.
The Mitre 10 Cup’s leading try scorer, Sevu Reece, looks to be without a team despite a standout year in which he scored 14 tries. Reece was originally set to join Irish club Connacht in the Pro14 next year before his offer was rescinded following an off-field incident for which he was discharged without conviction.
A player that could potentially make the leap who also featured in Friday’s Championship final is Otago outside back Vilimoni Koroi.
The 20-year-old went from starring at the Condor Sevens with Feilding High School to the New Zealand Sevens setup. Almost two years after his debut on the sevens circuit, the diminutive winger has become a star for Otago and looks poised to take the next step in his young career.
Roe is expected to join the Chiefs while Jones – son of All Blacks great Michael – has reportedly been snapped up by the defending champion Crusaders. Rayasi, who was schooled at Wellington’s St. Patrick’s Siverstream, has been linked with a move home to join the Hurricanes.
22-year-old winger Rayasi was a member of the World Cup-winning New Zealand Sevens side earlier this year and has enjoyed a stellar Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Auckland, crossing for nine tries.
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