March 24, 2023

Reigning champions name their team for Sky Super Rugby Aupiki finals

The reigning champions Waitomo Chiefs Manawa will face Matatū at home this Saturday for the Sky Super Rugby Aupiki finals as they look to go back-to back.

The starting 15 remains the same as it has throughout much of the competition reflecting the connection and strength of the side. However, Waitomo Chiefs Manawa head coach Crystal Kaua is not getting complacent.

"This is finals time, and we are not taking Matatū lightly," explained Kaua. "They have five starting players from that World Cup final and we have one. They have quality players and coaches and every game we have had over the past two years has been an arm wrestle."

The Waitomo Chiefs Manawa have put a number of points on the board across the season and have led the competition for most tries with 29, ahead of Matatū's 19. Starting again this week is Black Ferns hooker Luka Connor who contributed six of those tries herself, with the dynamic wingers Mererangi Paul and Georgia Daals each adding five.

The effective prop duo of Kate Henwood and Tanya Kalounivale is named once more alongside Connor in the front row.

Locks Chelsea Bremner and Kelsie Thwaites have had an outstanding season, holding second and third position on the table for lineouts won with their combined efforts giving the team a competition-leading 83% average.

Charmaine Smith slots back into flanker alongside Tynealle Fitzgerald with captain Kennedy Simon in the No.8 jersey and vice-captain Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu named as halfback.

Hazel Tubic commands her spot in first-five with the exciting backs Azalleyah Maaka and Carla Hohepa in the midfield and Tenika Willison is retained in full back.

"As a coaching and management group, we are proud of our entire squad. We believe in them," said Kaua.

"They have each other's backs on and off the field. They've pushed each other hard, now we are at the big dance and it's time to go out there play with freedom and expression and enjoy every minute of it."

The game kicks off at 2.05pm this Saturday following the playoff for third with Blues v Hurricanes Poua at 11.35am. Tickets are available now from

Waitomo Chiefs Manawa team to play Sky Super Rugby Aupiki Finals:

1. Kate Henwood
2. Luka Connor
3. Tanya Kalounivale
4. Kelsie Thwaites
5. Chelsea Bremner
6. Charmaine Smith
7. Tynealle Fitzgerald
8. Kennedy Simon (C)
9. Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (VC)
10. Hazel Tubic
11. Georgia Daals
12. Azalleyah Maaka
13. Carla Hohepa
14. Mererangi Paul
15. Tenika Willison

16. Grace Houpapa-Barrett
17. Angel Mulu
18. Te Urupounamu McGarvey
19. Dhys Faleafaga
20. Victoria Makea
21. Violet Hapi-Wise
22. Abigail Roach
23. Olive Watherston*

Reigning champions name their team for Sky Super Rugby Aupiki finals