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)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby are delighted to announce that halfback Aaron Smith has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby through until the end of the 2019 season.
26-year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including an amazing 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his outstanding form into the All Blacks season.
Smith said: “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos. Knowing I’m contracted for the next four years allows me to focus on my rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which I hope to be part of. Dunedin is my home and I wouldn’t want to play my Super Rugby anywhere else; the Highlanders brotherhood is something pretty special and I can’t wait for next season.”
Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles who announced four-year deals earlier this year, while Jerome Kaino and Wyatt Crockett are contracted through until 2018. Players locked in to 2017 include Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Hikawera Elliot, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, James Broadhurst, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty; with Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody, Lima Sopoaga, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, George Moala, TJ Perenara, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu and Andy Ellis contracted through to the end of next year.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “I want to congratulate Aaron on his recommitment to New Zealand Rugby. In the last few seasons he has developed into a key player for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks and is a world-class player on top of his game. With the signing of Aaron, together with Brodie, Julian and Dane, we now have a core group of key players committed long-term to the All Blacks and their Super teams, which is fantastic.”
All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen added: “It’s outstanding news for Aaron and for the All Blacks. With a number of senior players leaving at the end of this year, Aaron and other players will play a key role in the team as we face the exciting challenges coming up over that period, including the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017. We look forward to working with him.”
Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented: “Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen. In a sense he is redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like that don’t come along that often.”
Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark added; “Aaron’s commitment to the Highlanders until 2019 is fantastic news. He is such an important member of the team and leadership group, and it’s great to have that commitment from him to the team and the organisation.”
Manawatu Rugby CEO John Knowles said: “Aaron remains a very important part of our community and we are delighted that he has recommitted to Manawatu. Every time he comes home he is out and about visiting schools and rugby clubs and inspiring the next generation of rugby players and we certainly appreciate his support.”
Aaron Smith – mini biography
Aaron Smith, or “Nugget” as he is affectionately known by his team mates, started his professional career in 2008 at the age 19 for the Manawatu Turbos. In 2011 after consistently strong performances in the ITM Cup Smith earned a position in the highly successful Maori All Blacks, coached by Jamie Joseph. Subsequently offered a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders, Smith made his debut in 2011. Smith has been the Highlanders first-choice halfback for the last four seasons. In 2012, after an outstanding Super Rugby season, Smith was selected for the All Blacks and made his first appearance in the iconic black jersey against Ireland on 9 June 2012. Smith’s trademark bullet pass and fast-paced style suited the All Blacks’ expansive game and he cemented himself in the starting team in 2013. He was awarded the Tom French Memorial Trophy for the Maori Rugby Player of the Year in 2014 - and with 41 All Blacks Tests to date - Smith is generally regarded as one of the best halfbacks in the world.
Media note: Smith will be available for comment together with Roger Clark at a media stand up at Highlanders HQ in Dunedin at 1.00PM today. For further information please contact Amanda Gould on 021 223 8840.
The Highlanders have confirmed that they have been working with SL Events and Toulon post winning the 2015 Investec Super Rugby title around staging a game in Hong Kong. The game would be an integral part of their preseason campaign for 2016 and would take place on February 6th.
Highlanders General Manager, Roger Clark, said “obviously it’s a significant opportunity and it would be the first time the Highlanders have matched up against a European side. It’s fair to say the coaching group are excited by the prospect. While there are still a number of operational and compliance issues to work through we do have agreement in principle.”