With all the excitement of the World Cup behind us its now time to look at what is argued to be the best league in the world, Super Rugby.
With a new season comes fresh chances for players to stake a claim for a starting spot. Here are some rookies who should catch a few eyes over the next 9 months or so.
Rob Thompson (Highlanders)
The prospect of seeing Rob Thompson line up by the side of Malakai Fekitoa in the Highlanders midfield in 2015 is teifying. The Canterbury centre won the 2015 ITM Cup with his side and was also joint top try scorer beating no less than 52 defenders in the process. The former Crusader doesn’t just steam roll his way through tackles but he is also deceptively quick and will punish defences this year. With him in the side the ‘Landers could do the unthinkable and defend their title!
Junior Laloifi (Reds)
There had to be an Australian influence in here and that comes from Junior Laloifi. To be fair there are a few outside backs who put their hands up for this including Western Force’s new boy Semisi Masiwera as well as league converts Eto Nabuli and Reece Robinson, but it has to be Laloifi. The Reds had a terrible 2015 and scoring tries was a problem that needs to be addressed. The Brisbane City star scored 14 tries in the regular NRC season, six more than his nearest rival and showed skill levels of a veteran let alone a 21 year old. Hopefully he can get a lot of ball in 2016 and the Reds should climb up that table.
Santiago Cordero & Manuel Montero (Argentina)
Argentina won over plenty of fans during the World Cup and one of the main reasons for that was Santiago Cordero. The pint sized winger was a scintillating addition to RWC 2015. Despite his diminutive size, he was fearless, running the ball back whenever he had the opportunity and he is quick, really quick.
What will be amusing this year with Argentinian side is the contrast with their two wingers because if Cordero is a few inches off the usual size for a winger, then Manuel Montero more than makes up for it. The fix foot four inch and 17 stone behemoth has shown signs that he could be something special and their partnerships should hold the new side in very good stead ahead of their debut season.
Chase Tiatia (Chiefs)
One of the best players for the ITM Championship this year was the Bay of Plenty fullback Chase Tiatia. When Wellington released him they made a huge mistake and he proved that with a breakout 2015. He may have scored just four tries but he set up plenty more with 17 clean breaks and 23 defenders beaten in his 10 games. The free running 15 also ran for over 700 metres and has a wonderful offload. With Gear, Heem, Marhsall, McKenzie and Nanai-Williams all having left there are some gaps in the back three and he could fill it!
Rieko Ioane (Blues)
This man rose to prominence on the sevens circuit last year with some staggering displays and he has continued to go from strength to strength after an impressive ITM Cup season with Auckland. He comes from a serious rugby family with his older brother Akira looking like he could be the next star of the game and Rieko has plenty to offer too. With Rene Ranger and George Moala also in the centres for the Blues, he may not get ample opportunities but when he gets the chance I expect him to take it and under the tutelage of Tana Umaga he could have huge impact n the game.