The squad includes eight current or former All Blacks and seven Maori All Blacks. There are several new faces in the team with Wellington midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Tasman forwards Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson and Tyrel Lomax, Counties players prop Kalolo Tuiloma and outside back Tevita Nabura and Canterbury outside back Josh McKay. Otago first-five Josh Ioane also makes the step up to Super Rugby in 2018.
Highlander’s head coach, Aaron Mauger, is looking forward to welcoming his new players, “It’s been interesting watching the Mitre 10 Cup, as you do get to see a lot of younger players getting an opportunity to display their abilities. We’re very happy with the group of younger guys we have managed to pick up, they will mesh nicely with the more established players we already have. One aspect young players always bring to any squad is boundless enthusiasm and energy; as a coach you always look to embrace that.”
Perhaps with an eye to the future, young Tasman lock Pari Pari Parkinson has joined last season’s rookie Josh Dickson to add depth to the experienced locking trio of Alex Ainley, Tom Franklin and Jackson Hemopo. “Fair to say in Josh and Pari Pari we have two players that we believe will flourish in our environment, working with coaches Mark Hammett, Clarke Dermody and alongside their peers to develop their game. Jackson Hemopos’ last few seasons are a great example of how that can work”.
Another young Tasman player looking to make his mark is 23 year old Shannon Frizell, “Shannon is a rangy loose forward with excellent aerial skills who can cover the lock position. He figured strongly for the Makos this season and was impressive with the ball in hand and has a very high work rate. We are excited about helping Shannon grow his game to the next level.”
“We have assembled a well-balanced and exciting squad that will create real competition for starting spots; we have selected players that fit the playing profile to execute our game and stretch our capabilities as a team. I’m looking forward to getting the guys together in a few weeks to start building our campaign”.
The team, less those involved in international fixtures, will assemble in Dunedin on Thursday 30 November.
2018 PULSE ENERGY HIGHLANDERS SQUAD
Backs: Ben Smith, Josh McKay, Tevita Li, Waisake Naholo, Tevita Nabura, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Richard Buckman, Patelesio Tomkinson, Matt Faddes, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Lima Sopoaga, Fletcher Smith, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, Kayne Hammington, Aaron Smith
Forwards: Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, James Lentjes , Dan Pryor, Alex Ainley, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Josh Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson, Kalolo Tuiloma, Siate Tokolahi, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Tyrel Lomax, Aki Seiuli, Guy Millar, Ash Dixon, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Liam Coltman