MEDIA RELEASE - 17 November 2015
LIMA SOPOAGA COMMITS TO HIGHLANDERS AND NEW ZEALAND RUGBY
The Highlanders are delighted to announce that first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby and the Investec Super Rugby champions through until the end of the 2018 season.
24-year-old Sopoaga has played 49 games for the Highlanders and made his All Blacks Test debut this year against the Springboks in South Africa. Currently he holds the season record for points scored by a Highlander with 191 in 2015. He is the second-ranked Highlander for most career points on 453 (behind current assistant coach Tony Brown). Considered an essential member of the Highlanders team, Sopoaga’s accurate boot and skilful running game are credited with helping the southern men to their first ever Super Rugby title in 2015.
Sopoaga said: “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to sign to the Highlanders until 2018. I owe a lot to the coaching staff and the organisation for sticking by me and allowing me to develop not only as a player but as a person. I wouldn't be where I am today without the great team culture, teammates, coaches and medical staff. I’m looking forward to my future with the club.”
Sopoaga joins teammate Aaron Smith, who also announced a lengthy contract extension earlier this year, their commitment to the team augurs well for the future prospects of Highlanders’ rugby. Both Sopoaga and Smith have been nominated for the Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year at the 2015 Steinlager New Zealand Rugby Awards being held in December.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager of Rugby Neil Sorensen said: “This is just awesome news for Highlanders fans. Lima is a class act, and has shown in both the All Blacks and Highlanders jerseys that he has some fantastic skills. It’s exciting to think that we’re just scratching the surface of what this young man can deliver.”
Highlanders’ Head Coach Jamie Joseph said: “Lima has worked really hard in the past few seasons to develop his game, he has grown into a skilful first five and become an important member of our team. What’s more exciting is that I don’t think he has achieved his full potential yet and is only going to get better.”
Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark added; “Lima came to us as 19-yearold and had to overcome some pretty significant injuries in those early seasons, so it’s great to see how far he has come and the maturity he has shown in his game for a player who’s still very young. We’re excited to see what the future holds for him.”
Sopoaga and Highlanders teammate, Waisake Naholo, are currently in England with the Barbarians preparing to take on Argentina on the 21st November.
Lima Sopoaga – mini biography
Lima Sopoaga, was identified as a rugby talent at a young age but had to overcome struggles with injury to realise his potential.
Wellington-born and raised, Sopoaga accepted an offer from the Highlanders in 2011 on the back of a strong debut season for the Wellington Lions in 2010. The same year, he was part of the New Zealand Under 20 team's Junior World Championship-winning campaign in Italy. Injuries limited his 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby seasons, but in 2014 and 2015, regular game-time has seen the playmaker’s game blossom, he has built a reputation for taking the ball strongly to the line and creating exciting opportunities for his powerful wings. He is also a very accurate goal kicker.
MEDIA RELEASE - 28 October 2015
The Highlanders have announced their squad to contest the 2016 Investec Super Rugby competition.
The 38-man squad has 29 players returning from the 2015 team. Mid-season injury replacements, Daniel Lienert-Brown and James Lentjes return on full contracts. While the loose forward stocks have been bolstered by Liam Squire (Tasman) and Luke Whitelock (Canterbury), after the departures of experienced campaigners, Nasi Manu and John Hardie. Also joining the forwards is Siosiua Halanukonuka (Tasman), the Tongan-born prop has had a solid season for Tasman and hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate (Auckland) who will add some depth to the front row. Craig Millar (Otago) returns to the squad after a one year hiatus due to injury as well as teammate, lock, Jackson Hemopo, who debuted for the Highlanders in 2015 after coming into the squad as injury cover.
Young and exciting midfielders Rob Thompson (Canterbury) and Matt Faddes (Otago) come into the backs after being stand-outs in their ITM Cup teams and collecting 16 tries between them. First five-eighth, Hayden Parker, who had limited game time in 2015 due to a shoulder injury that required surgery will spend the next couple of months in Japan with Panasonic before returning for the start of the 2016 season. Fan-favourite, Fumiaki Tanaka, will return early in the new year for his fourth season with the Highlanders.
Also included in the 38-man squad is 19-year old Patelesio (Sio) Tomkinson. Tomkinson is an exciting player with a big future who has made his debut for Otago in the ITM cup this year.
Alex Ainley, Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Elliot Dixon, Brendon Edmonds, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Ross Geldenhuys, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Jackson Hemopo, Josh Hohneck, Daniel Lienert-Brown, James Lentjes, Craig Millar, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Dan Pryor, Mark Reddish, Liam Squire, Luke Whitelock and Joe Wheeler
Marty Banks, Richard Buckman, Jason Emery, Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Hayden Parker, Josh Renton, Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Ryan Tongia and Teihorangi Walden
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
The Highlanders have confirmed two exciting new midfield signings for the 2016 season. Canterbury’s Rob Thompson and Otago’s Matt Faddes, both have had eye catching performances in the ITM Cup this season.
Thompson, is an exciting player who debuted for Canterbury in 2013 and after a solid year earned a wider training group contract with the Crusaders leading to his Super Rugby debut against the Blues in 2014. A powerful runner, who has the strength to play in the midfield and the speed to play in the outside backs, Thompson will provide versatility and depth to the Highlanders midfield stocks.
Thompson commented that “the Highlanders play an attractive style of rugby that appeals to me, they look to be a quality outfit and I’m looking forward to getting down there and doing my bit to continue the success they are enjoying.”
Faddes, like backs coach Tony Brown, grew up in South Otago and has been playing for Otago since 2011, debuting against North Harbour. Faddes has concentrated on fifteens rugby this season having had a stint with Sevens after being called into New Zealand Sevens team in 2013 and ended up helping them to a world series win in London. Having played most of his rugby at wing or fullback he has made the centre position his own this year for Otago using his pace and strength to good effect.
Faddes said when asked about joining the Highlanders, “I’m stoked to be playing for the Highlanders in 2016. It has always been a dream of mine from a young age coming from South Otago. Just really looking forward to next year’s opportunities”.
Asst. Coach, Tony Brown said, “we were looking for versatile players with good skill sets and speed, with a little bit of experience. Both Rob and Matt provide that for us, giving us multiple options in the backs. They are both young and exciting players for the future who had stand-out seasons in the ITM cup this year, scoring 16 tries between them.”
The Highlanders will welcome Liam Squire (Tasman and Chiefs) and Luke Whitelock (Canterbury and Crusaders) to the team in 2016 (both on one year contracts). Squire has played for the Chiefs over the last two seasons, although his appearances were limited this season due to injury. He has played a significant role in the success of the Tasman team over the last few ITM Cup seasons as a strong ball carrier who can breach defences. Whitelock, an All Black in 2013 has played 50 Super Rugby games and will help to add further depth to the Highlanders loose forward stocks after the departures of Nasi Manu and John Hardie.
Highlanders Head Coach, Jamie Joseph added, ‘we are delighted to have secured Liam’s and Luke’s services, we were looking for a strong ball carrying eight who would suit our style of play and we believe Liam fits that description. Luke’s Super Rugby experience and versatility will be a real asset to our group, we’re looking forward to having him join the Highlanders.”
Whitelock commented that he was “looking forward to coming down to Dunedin and being with the Highlanders next year. I have heard a lot of great things about the culture that has been developed down there. Squire also commented that he was “looking forward to getting down there, getting to know everyone and seeing what Dunedin is all about”.
Position No 8
Provincial Team Tasman
Provincial Debut 2011
Provincial Caps 28
Super Rugby Debut 2014 v Highlanders (Chiefs)
Super Caps 14
Position Loose Forward
Provincial Team Canterbury
Provincial Debut 2011 v Wellington
Provincial Caps 34
Super Rugby Debut 2012 v Chiefs (Crusaders)
Super Caps 50
Test Rugby Debut 2013 v Japan
Test Caps 1
MEDIA RELEASE - 28 September 2015
2016 Highlanders Draw
Super Rugby enters an exciting new era with the inclusion of teams from Argentina and Japan. Teams will play six matches within their own Conference, five against an Australasian Conference, four against a South African Conference and will have two byes across the 17-week Regular Season. The Highlanders will play six games against other New Zealand teams, all five Australian teams and four games against Africa 2 (which includes Kings, Lions, Sharks and the Argentinean Team).
The Regular Season will be followed by a knockout Super Rugby Finals Series featuring eight teams; the four conference winners plus the three next highest-ranked teams from the Australasian Group and the next highest-ranked team from the South African Group. Conference winners will be seeded 1-4 based upon overall points from the Regular Season and the highest-ranked team will play at home in each match-up.
The Highlanders start their 2016 campaign in Auckland against the Blues before a 2015 Super Rugby Final rematch against the Hurricanes at home (venue TBC) and then the Lions the following week. Round three sees the reigning champions head to Sydney to play the Waratahs and then Melbourne to take on the Rebels before returning to New Zealand to play the Force in round six. The team will then head back over the ditch to play the Reds in Brisbane in round seven before their first bye in round 8, this is followed by two home games against the Sharks and Brumbies before heading up north to play the Chiefs. Round 12 holds the classic mainland derby where the Highlanders play the Crusaders at home leading into their second bye in round 13. In round 14 the Highlanders travel to Hurricanes territory and then the real travel begins with games against the Kings and the Argentinean team, in South African and Argentina respectively, before coming home to play their final game of the regular season in round 17 against the Chiefs.
HIGHLANDERS HOME GAMES:
Preseason – Highlanders v Toulon – Saturday 6th February, Siu Sai Wan Stadium, Hong Kong
Preseason – Highlanders v Crusaders – Thursday 11th February 5.45pm, Fred Booth Park, Waimumu
Preseason – Highlanders v Waratahs – Friday 19th February 5.45pm, Queenstown Recreation Ground
R2 – Highlanders v Hurricanes – Saturday 5th March 7.35pm
R3 – Highlanders v Lions – Saturday 12th March 7.35pm
R6 – Highlanders v Force – Friday 1st April 7.35pm
R9 – Highlanders v Sharks – Friday 22nd April 7.35pm
R10 – Highlanders v Brumbies – Saturday 30 April 5.15pm
R12 – Highlanders v Crusaders – Friday 13th May 7.35pm
R17 – Highlanders v Chiefs – Saturday 16th July 7.35pm
Please note that six games will be played at Forsyth Barr Stadium with the venue of the 7th game to be confirmed. Once all games have been assigned to a venue we will confirm which six are to be played at Forsyth Barr Stadium and which game will be at an alternate venue.
Click here to download 2016 Draw (all teams)