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‘A clean slate’: Why Patrick Tuipulotu expects tougher Super Rugby Pacific

By Finn Morton
The team captains pose for a photograph with the trophy at the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific Season Launch on February 14, 2024 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Injured Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu believes Super Rugby Pacific will “definitely” be tougher in 2024 as teams start back “at the beginning” after farewelling several greats last time around.

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What happened in 2023 doesn’t mean too much anymore. Sure, teams including the Chiefs, Blues and Brumbies can be considered favourites, but they’ve still got to prove it on the field.

With some teams looking noticeably different, there’s a fair bit of uncertainty surrounding the season ahead. New coaches and new players is a recipe for either glorious success or shortcomings in elite sport.

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The Highlanders don’t have the likes of Aaron Smith or Shannon Frizell to call upon, the Crusaders are without Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Sam Whitelock, and the Hurricanes don’t’ have Ardie Savea or Dane Coles.

But that’s just to name a few teams. That list really does go on and on. With the new season rapidly approaching, All Black Patrick Tuipulotu believes it might be a little while until we know who the teams to beat are.

“There’s a few key players who have left a few different teams. It almost feels like a clean slate, everyone’s sort of at the beginning again,” Tuipulotu told reporters at the season launch in Auckland.

“I think by a few rounds in we’ll know where everyone stands.”

But the absence of some genuine New Zealand rugby greats in Super Rugby Pacific doesn’t just create holes in some franchises, but the national team as well.

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The All Blacks ushered in a new dawn last month with coach Scott Robertson assembling 22 players for a two-day camp in Auckland. But there are still so many unanswered questions.

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With no Whitelock or long-lasting partner in crime Brodie Retallick, the All Blacks will have to turn to a new locking duo – with Scott Barrett seeming all but certain to hold down a starting spot.

If that is to be the case, then Barrett needs someone to join him in the second row – and Tuipulotu, who will miss the early rounds of the season with a broken jaw, wants to be back in black.

“It is, it’s at the top of my list as well as trying to play well for the Blues and win a championship,” Tuipulotu said.

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“It’s one thing to get there but it’s another thing to be consistent so that’s the goal.

“Obviously Sam and Brodie have been there for a long time… getting there and staying there, it’s a tough one.”

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