A total of 160 players have been confirmed as fully contracted members of one of the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams for the 2015 season. This includes 38 players receiving full time contracts for the first time. The Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders have today announced their finalised fully contracted and wider training group squads with the last of their draft selections secured yesterday. New Zealand Rugby General Manager Neil Sorensen congratulated all players and coaches on their 2015 squads, “This is one of the most exciting phases in our season. With Super Rugby now the main launching pad for All Blacks selections, many players aspire to secure a contract that allows them to turn their passion into a profession. Today is an exciting day for all those named for the first time in one of the five teams. We only need look at players like Malakai Fekitoa, who was selected for the All Blacks after a sensational start to his Super Rugby career with the Highlanders this season. The pathway to the All Blacks is very real for this group. For coaches and team management, it’s a chance to demonstrate they can pick talent, combinations, build depth and create great high performance environments that produce winning teams and great players. Next year’s Super Rugby squads include a total of 38 players new to full contracts, although 12 have already played their first Super Rugby game in 2014. A further 22 players are new to wider training groups but as we’ve seen in recent years, there is every likelihood those players will also take the field in 2015. Of all the debutants, six players were in this year’s New Zealand Under 20 side including skipper Simon Hickey, and a large number have picked up their first contracts after stunning ITM Cup seasons for their province.”
Three All Blacks Sevens players are also named in the squads. The 2015 squads see the return of Rugby World Cup 2011 All Blacks Jimmy Cowan (Blues), Hosea Gear and Sonny Bill Williams (both Chiefs). The season gets under way on Friday, 13 February 2015, with the Crusaders hosting the Rebels in Christchurch, and the Blues hosting the Chiefs.
As they have done for the past two seasons, the Hurricanes start their campaign in South Africa, against the Lions. The Highlanders drew the bye meaning they get an extra week to prepare for their first match – an exciting South Island derby at home in Dunedin against the Crusaders. With the exception of All Blacks now on Northern Tour duty, and the Maori All Blacks in Japan, the majority of Super Rugby players are now officially on leave. Most will return for training in late November.
Super Rugby debutants will attend a one-day induction with New Zealand Rugby in late November.