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New players add exciting touch to Gallagher Chiefs

Rising sevens star Etene Nanai-Seturo is looking forward to “joining the Chiefs brotherhood” in Super Rugby next year.

The Counties Manukau speedster, who made his debut for the All Blacks Sevens team in 2018, including scoring a try in the side’s Commonwealth Games gold medal win over Fiji, has been named in the Gallagher Chiefs squad for the 2019 Investec Super Rugby season.

Nanai-Seturo, 19, is one of four Gallagher Chiefs squad members who will hope to make their Super Rugby debuts in 2019, joining Taranaki and All Blacks wider squad prop Reuben O’Neill, New Zealand U20s lock Laghlan McWhannell, and Tongan-born Japan international winger Ataata Moeakiola.

Described by Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper as “very quick, with a great work ethic”, Nanai-Seturo said he was thrilled to earn a Super Rugby contract with the Gallagher Chiefs.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of the team,” the former New Zealand Schools representative said. “I’m pretty stoked, but a bit nervous at the same time.”

He said he was excited about bringing his sevens skills to the squad while developing as a 15s player.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into the team environment, training hard, learning from the coaches and players, and being part of the Chiefs brotherhood.”

Taranaki prop O’Neill, 23, has had a rapid rise from provincial player to All Blacks wider squad member without playing a minute of Super Rugby. A versatile prop who can play both sides of the scrum, O’Neill caught the attention of the All Blacks selectors in the Mitre 10 Cup and was named in the wider squad for the Japanese leg of the end-of-year tour.

“I’m really excited and keen to get up there and put my best foot forward,” he said of his inclusion in the Gallagher Chiefs squad.

“I obviously haven’t played Super Rugby before so it’s a whole new level for me, just as being in the All Blacks squad is another level again. But I’m really up for the challenge, and want to keep developing my game – I’m definitely not the finished product so want to pick everyone’s brain, work hard and improve.”

The former New Zealand Schools representative will link up with his former Taranaki coach, Cooper, who said O’Neill was a great addition to the squad.

“He’s a strong scrummager at loosehead and tighthead and through his hard work for Taranaki this season he forced his way into the All Blacks squad. We’re really pleased to have Reuben in the group,” Cooper said.

Lock McWhannell had a stellar New Zealand U20s campaign, which was followed by a strong Mitre 10 Cup season with Waikato. Another player to have come through the New Zealand Schools ranks, the 20-year-old had a taste of Chiefs rugby at the Brisbane 10s tournament this year and said playing Super Rugby with the Gallagher Chiefs had always been a goal.

“I’m stoked. Growing up and going to school in Hamilton, I’ve always wanted to be a Chief, so I’m excited and really keen to get stuck in,” he said.

McWhannell has spent time training with the Gallagher Chiefs, and Cooper said he was an “exciting young player” who would develop under the guidance of All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick.

“I think having Brodie there, I’ll be able to learn a lot from him,” McWhannell said. “I’m really looking forward to being amongst the squad, learning as much as I can, and hopefully helping the team.”

Cooper said Tongan-born Japan international winger Ataata Moeakiola, 22, who they had followed through the Gallagher Chiefs’ connection with the Kobe club in Japan, was an exciting prospect with “huge potential”.

Another two players, who already have Super Rugby experience, are new to the squad.

New Zealand-born utility back Jack Debreczeni, 25, represented Australian Schools and played 42 games for the Melbourne Rebels before returning to New Zealand and impressing for Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup this season.

“Jack’s a very experienced player, is versatile and will add to the mix at 10, 12 or 15. He’s also a good kicker and game driver,” Cooper said.

Samoa age-group representative midfielder Tumua Manu, 25, has played for the Blues and has starred for Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup this season.

“He’s a quick and physical player – there’s a lot to like about him,” Cooper said.

Strength across the field for Gallagher Chiefs


The 2019 Gallagher Chiefs squad announced today won’t need to look far for inspiration when pulling on the jersey next season.

Star prop Angus Ta’avao was called into the 2018 squad as an injury replacement, but through hard work and perseverance the Taranaki co-captain and former Waratah became an integral member of the team. By September he was donning the All Blacks jersey in his test debut against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

“It’s an inspiring story for all our players – one of don’t ever give up on your dream,” Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper said when naming his squad for the Investec Super Rugby competition.

“Angus is a great person and a hard-working player and should be an inspiration to all these young men who have been named today.”

Ta’avao is one of eight All Blacks announced in the Gallagher Chiefs squad, joining fellow one-cap All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, and experienced All Blacks Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala in a squad that boasts a fine balance of experience, youth, speed, strength and skill.

New Gallagher Chiefs signing, Taranaki prop Reuben O’Neill, who has been named in the All Blacks’ wider squad for the Japanese leg of the end-of-year tour, will also bring international experience into the Super Rugby season, as will Māori All Blacks players Shaun Stevenson, Mitchell Karpik and Brad Weber.

O’Neill is one of four players who will hope to make their Super Rugby debuts in 2019, joining exciting All Blacks Sevens speedster Etene Nanai-Seturo, promising New Zealand U20s lock Laghlan McWhannell, and Tongan-born Japan international winger Ataata Moeakiola in the Gallagher Chiefs squad.

Another two players, who already have Super Rugby experience, are new to the squad – former Melbourne Rebels utility back Jack Debreczeni, who was with Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup, and Samoa age-group representative midfielder Tumua Manu, who has played for the Blues and performed well for Auckland this season.

Like Ta’avao, midfielder Bailyn Sullivan, loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula, and outside back Sean Wainui all impressed as injury replacements last season and have been rewarded with contracts for 2019.

Cooper, who heads a settled coaching lineup of assistants Neil Barnes, Tabai Matson, Andrew Strawbridge and Nick White, said he was thrilled with a squad that features 26 players from the Chiefs’ provincial unions of Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, and 31 players who were with the side in 2018.

“It’s a very exciting squad, and it’s great to have a good spread of players from throughout the Chiefs region. We’ve retained a lot of players from this year, including a number of our core leadership group, we’ve brought in a group of exciting and talented new players, and some of our injured players are returning, such as Atu Moli, Aidan Ross, Nepo Laulala, Mitchell Brown and Fin Hoeata, who will all make a big contribution and add a lot of depth,” Cooper said.

“That continuity of players working with a settled second-year coaching group is really important in helping us take another step forward in 2019.”

Cooper congratulated and welcomed the new players to the squad and said the coaching group were eager to get started.

“It’s a great environment here and we’re looking forward to bringing the new players into this group, where they will be looked after in a hard-working environment,” he said.

“We want to make sure everyone is on the waka and paddling in the same direction. If we get that right, the performances will come.”

The Gallagher Chiefs begin their 2019 Investec Super Rugby season with a home game against the Highlanders on Friday, 15 February at FMG Stadium Waikato.

2019 Chiefs Season Memberships go on sale tomorrow, 1 November. The membership includes seven Gallagher Chiefs round robin home games at FMG Stadium Waikato and a two-day pass to the HSBC NZ Sevens in Hamilton. Head to or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out more.

2019 Gallagher Chiefs squad


Kane Hames (Tasman)

Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)

Reuben O’Neill (Taranaki)

Nepo Laulala (Counties Manukau)

Atu Moli (Waikato)

Sosefo Kautai (Waikato)

Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki)


Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty)

Liam Polwart (Bay of Plenty)

Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato)


Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay)

Tyler Ardron (Bay of Plenty)

Laghlan McWhannell (Waikato)

Michael Allardice (Hawke’s Bay)

Fin Hoeata (Taranaki)

Loose forwards

Mitchell Brown (Taranaki)

Taleni Seu (Auckland)

Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty)

Mitchell Karpik (Bay of Plenty)

Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)

Luke Jacobson (Waikato)

Pita Gus Sowakula (Taranaki)


Brad Weber (Hawke’s Bay)

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki)

Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau)

First five-eighths

Damian McKenzie (Waikato)

Tiaan Falcon (Hawke’s Bay)

Jack Debreczeni (Northland)


Alex Nankivell (Tasman)

Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato)

Tumua Manu (Auckland)

Bailyn Sullivan (Waikato)

Outside backs

Solomon Alaimalo (Tasman)

Sean Wainui (Taranaki)

Ataata Moeakiola (Japan)

Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau)

Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour)

Marty McKenzie (Taranaki)


A new exciting cup will be up for grabs in Chiefs Country for the upcoming Mitre 10 and Farah Palmer Cup seasons with the Mitre 10 Cup getting underway this weekend.

The four Chiefs provincial unions (Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau, Taranaki and Waikato) now have more than competition points to play for when they face off against each other in their respective national provincial competition, with the Chiefs Country Cup now on the line to be won.

The first opportunity to win the cup will be this weekend when Bay of Plenty take on Taranaki at Rotorua International Stadium. The winner of this match will hold the cup, and it will then be challenged by the next Chiefs provincial union team, regardless whether the holder is playing home or away.

The Farah Palmer Cup fixture between Waikato and Counties Manukau on September 1 will also decide the inaugural holders of the cup in the Women’s competition who will then seek to defend it throughout the season.

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union are excited to be the first Provincial Union to host the first challenge for the Chiefs Country Cup against Taranaki this weekend.

Mike Rogers, Bay of Plenty Rugby Union CEO said it is a great initiative to be launched by the Chiefs to connect our four Provincial Unions.

“The cup ensures that the rivalries will be at an all-time high between the four provincial unions with even more on the line to play for and provides a great connection between the Chiefs Rugby Club and the four unions and fans.”

The special cup, designed by Dave Burke represents the Chiefs provincial unions playing in the Mitre 10 Cup through the four respective Kaitaiki’s on the design. The design is symbolic of the shape of a heart, representing that the unions are the heartbeat of the Investec Super Rugby team.

The cup’s design also features a Maunga which symbolises all the mountains in the Chiefs region, as well as the waterway and sacred waters that connect the four regions.

We are pleased to announce that props Aidan Ross and Angus Ta’avao have re-signed with the Gallagher Chiefs.

It is a great boost to the front row with Ross and Ta’avao signing on until 2021 and 2020 respectively.

Aidan Ross is very familiar with the Chiefs environment, having progressed through the University of Waikato Chiefs Development programme before entering the 2018 Investec Super Rugby season with a full contract. The Bay of Plenty prop impressed, playing seven games, before his season was abruptly ended with an ankle injury. The young prop made his debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2017 as a squad replacement player against the Western Force, and has gone from strength to strength since.

The front rower was ecstatic to re-sign with the club.

"I’m absolutely stoked to re commit to the Gallagher Chiefs - I couldn’t imagine playing my footy anywhere else and I’m pumped to crack into next season.”

Ross represents Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup and has played for the New Zealand U20 team and was also in the squad for the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians game against the British & Irish Lions in 2017.

Angus Ta’avao came in to the team as a squad replacement player and was hugely significant throughout the season, playing 17 games and clocking up over 1100 minutes. Ta’avao’s contribution both on and off the field didn’t go unnoticed, picking up the Chiefs Personality Award at the 2018 Gallagher Chiefs Season Celebration.

The 28-year old is vastly experienced, having played for the Blues and Waratahs throughout his career, as well as being a prominent figure for Taranaki in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Ta’avao thoroughly enjoyed his first season with the team and is excited for the seasons to come.

"It’s an exciting time for my family and I as we thoroughly enjoyed our first season with the Chiefs family and it is great to sign on.”

Now in the off-season, the Gallagher Chiefs players will return to their provincial unions for Mitre 10 Cup duties, as well as our All Blacks players who will enter camp ahead of the Investec Rugby Championship. The Mitre 10 Cup kicks off on the 16 August and the All Blacks will play their opening game of the Rugby Championship against the Wallabies on Saturday 18 August in Sydney. 

The Gallagher Chiefs' 2018 season has ended at the hands of the Hurricanes, going down 32-31 in their quarter final at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

After a gutsy 28-24 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton last weekend, the Gallagher Chiefs were unable to back that up as the home side eventually wore them down in the second half. The Chiefs showed great spirit, making a late push with two tries in the final few minutes, but it was not enough.

The Hurricanes got off to a flying start when, just 40 seconds into the match, wing Julian Savea intercepted a wide floating pass from first five Damian McKenzie and raced away from 50 metres out to score under the posts.

Just minutes later with the Gallagher Chiefs hard on attack, Savea plucked another intercept but this time he was run down 15 metres short of the line.

The Gallagher Chiefs then settled nicely after the frantic start and, after an initial break from second give Charlie Ngatai, space was created down the left wing with halfback Brad Weber on hand to get the last pass from Shaun Stevenson and finish off.

McKenzie converted the Weber try from under the posts to tie the scores after a hectic opening eight minutes.

Beauden Barrett nudged the Hurricanes back in front soon after with a penalty kick, while at the other end the Chiefs were showing their intent - turning down three potential shots at goal to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes defence.

After a long period inside the Hurricanes 22, the Chiefs eventually opted to take the points with McKenzie slotting a simple penalty from right in front to level the scores in the 22nd minute.

Play then swung to the other end of the field with the Chiefs now asked to defend their line, and they were up to the task initially before halfback TJ Perenara squeezed his way over off the back of a five metre scrum.

Barrett's conversion opened up a seven-point lead as the match headed past the half hour mark.

There were some bright moments for the Chiefs late in the half, but no further points were added as the home side went to the break with a 17-10 lead.

The Hurricanes started the second half strongly, looking to extend their lead and take full control of the match, but the Chiefs dug deep on defence to deny them.

Out of nowhere, a clearing kick from Ngatai bounced into the hands of loose forward Lachlan Boshier who charged ahead inside the Hurricanes 22. Quick ball from the ruck then found its way to Anton Lienert-Brown with the centre dotting down handy to the posts, McKenzie adding the extras to tie the scores.

The deadlock didn't last long however as Barrett slotted a 40 metre penalty to retake the lead in the 55th minute.

As the match moved into the final quarter the Hurricanes slowly began building pressure and eventually found their way over the line with Perenara once again darting off the back of a scrum to score.

Substitutions from both sides injected some fresh legs and, with the Hurricanes up by eight and 17 minutes remaining, an exciting finish was on the cards.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they were unable to get their hands on the ball as the Hurricanes controlled possession well, and they were rewarded with a fourth try, scored in the left-hand corner by wing Ben Lam.

Trying to chase the game in the final 10 minutes, now needing to score three times, the Chiefs very nearly got the instant reply they needed after a break from Lienert-Brown got them within metres of the line, but the ball was lost.

With time running out, the Chiefs were rewarded for their efforts with two late consolation tries in the final few minutes. Fullback Solomon Alaimalo made a break with McKenzie finishing off under the posts, which was followed by a try right on fulltime to Lachlan Boshier, leaving the Chiefs just one-point short.

Gallagher Chiefs 31 (Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie, Lachlan Boshier tries; Damian McKenzie 3 cons, pen, Charlie Ngatai con) Hurricanes 32 (TJ Perenara 2, Julian Savea, Ben Lam tries; Beauden Barrett 2 cons, 2 pens, Jordie Barrett con) HT: 10-17.

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Sam Cane
Full Name: Sam Cane
Team: Chiefs
Position:Loose forward
Super Rugby Games:106
Super Rugby Points:60 (12t)
Super Rugby Debut:2011 v Lions in Johannesburg
Province:Bay of Plenty
Provincial Games:19
Provincial Points:25 (5t)
Provincial Debut:2010 v Auckland in Mt Maunganui
Test Caps:50
Test Points:60 (12t)
Test Debut:2012 v Ireland in Christchurch
Facebook ID:456670991114990
Twitter Username:SamCane7
Youtube:Sam Cane

"A player with immense talent and leadership qualities, Sam has been a vital member of the squad for the past seven seasons. Sam has been co-captain of the team with Aaron for the past two seasons."- The Chiefs

Sam enters his seventh season with the Chiefs and is a key part of the team’s leadership co-captaining the side for the third successive season.  On the back of a stellar Super Rugby season in 2016 he collected  the Chiefs Players’ Player of the Year and showed many mature performances in his role as co-captain.   

The talented loose forward has won two Investec Super Rugby titles, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a U20 Junior World Championship gold medal and is a former New Zealand Rugby Age Group Player of the Year.

If you weren’t a rugby player, what would you be doing?
Guitarist in a rock band

Who was your favourite player as a kid?
Jeff Wilson

What event would you go to the Olympics for … No sevens allowed!
Beach Volleyball

Favourite sportsperson outside rugby?
Roger Federer

Forwards- What position would you put yourself in the backline and why?
Backs- What position would you put yourself in the forward pack and why?

Second Five

What’s your go to meal in the kitchen?
Creamy Chicken Fettucine

What’s your mum’s best meal for her boy?
Roast Lamb

Who is the best singer in the team?
Nathan Harris

Favourite movie quote?
Life is a game of inches, so is football –Al Pacino-Any given Sunday

What would you spend your last $10 on?
Two handles of beer for me and a mate

2018 Investec Super Rugby Table

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