May 12, 2020

Remembering the Chiefs class of 2012

We take a look back at each New Zealand Super Rugby club’s first ever championship title and see where the players who took the field in their respective final have ended up in their rugby careers.

This week, we look at the Chiefs, who won their first title in 2012. This is the side that started the final.

15. Robbie Robinson
Robinson burst onto the scene in 2008, when he made his provincial debut for Southland. He played in the champion 2009 New Zealand Under 20 side at the Junior World Cup in Japan, and played the majority of the tournament at fullback, with Aaron Cruden starting at first five-eighth. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Highlanders in 2010 and was with them for two seasons before signing with the Chiefs in 2012. He was released from the Chiefs at the end of 2014, due to injury, and he’s been plying his trade in Japan ever since, most recently with the Ricoh Black Rams.

14. Tim Nanai-Williams
A jack-of-all-trades, Nanai-Williams can play fullback, wing, or centre, but most of his success came on the flank. Nanai-Williams scored the opening try in the 2012 final. The Counties Manukau and Manurewa High School winger had a strong sidestep and was extremely tough to defend. He debuted for the Chiefs in 2010 and made 85 Super Rugby appearances. A former All Blacks Sevens player, Nanai-Williams became one of the first players to change his allegiance and moved to play for Samoa in Sevens, before representing them at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He had a stint playing for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and is now in France playing for Top 14 side Clermont.

13. Andrew Horrell
The successful 2012 campaign was Andrew Horrell’s debut season for the Chiefs. Horrell was a handy player to have in the backline, able to cover first five-eighth, fullback, and the midfield. He helped lead his Hawke’s Bay Magpies side to ITM Cup Championship victory in 2011, as the competition’s top point scorer with 152 points. In 2016, Horrell moved to Fukuoka in Japan and joined the Coca Cola Red Sparks.

12. Sonny Bill Williams
A player that needs no introduction. Sonny Bill Williams has done it all. He’s been a dual international and national and international champion across rugby, rugby league and boxing. He first signed with New Zealand Rugby in 2010 after plying his trade with French club Toulon. Williams played one Super Rugby season with the Crusaders in 2011, before signing on with the Chiefs in 2012. He scored the last try in the 2012 final and famously celebrated but leaping into the crowd. He played 58 Tests for the All Blacks and has now made the switch back to rugby league with the Toronto Wolfpack in the UK Super League.

11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma
The Fijian winger was another player who was in his debut season for the Chiefs when they won their maiden Super Rugby title. The electric and exciting back scored seven tries in the 2012 season and was part of the squad that won their back-to-back title in 2013. Tikoirotuma played 27 games for Manawatu in the Mitre 10 Cup. At the end of the 2014 Super Rugby season, the Fijian international joined London Club, Harlequins. He then joined Premiership rivals, London Irish before moving back to the southern hemisphere to play for Fijian Latui in the Global Rapid Rugby competition. Unfortunately, that season was called off earlier this year due to Covid-19.

10. Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden has gone full circle with the Chiefs. He was recruited to the Chiefs in 2012 from the Hurricanes by Dave Rennie and played a major part in their maiden title and their back-to-back effort in 2013. Having racked up 89 appearances for the Chiefs, Cruden left New Zealand in 2017 to link up with French club, Montpellier on a lucrative contract. He made a shock return to the Waikato club at the start of this season and had been in impressive form up until the competition was halted. Cruden’s played 50 Tests for the All Blacks and is a proud Manawatu Turbos man, having played 33 games for his province.

9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
The hard-nosed halfback burst onto the provincial rugby scene for Waikato as an 18-year old, representing the champion New Zealand Under 20s side at the 2010 World Cup in Argentina. Kerr-Barlow signed with the Chiefs the following year in 2011 and became a regular starter for the club. In the same year that he tasted Super Rugby success with the Chiefs, Kerr-Barlow made his All Blacks debut against Scotland on the end of year tour and went onto play 27 Tests. He also played for the Maori All Blacks. A bruising defender and clinical with his clearances, Kerr-Barlow announced he was moving to French club La Rochelle at the end of 2017, on a three-year deal.

8. Kane Thompson
Kane Thompson has been around the rugby traps. Having had stints with the Highlanders in Super Rugby and Wellington, Southland, and Hawke’s Bay in provincial rugby, he linked up with the Chiefs in 2012. Incidentally, he scored his first try of the season in the final against the Sharks and it was a fitting farewell ahead of a move to Japan. A Samoan international, who featured in three World Cups, Thompson returned to the Chiefs in 2014 and has since played in France with Dax, England with Newcastle, Manawatu and most recently with NOLA Gold in America’s Major League Rugby.

7. Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer is a proud Bay of Plenty man and a Chiefs stalwart. He made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2006, before shifting to the Chiefs in 2007. He became a strong Chiefs leader and was part of their success in 2012 and 2013 and became a Chiefs centurion, with 108 appearances. At the age of 17, Latimer made history by becoming the youngest player to debut for the New Zealand Sevens team. He won Commonwealth Games gold in Melbourne in 2006 and played five Tests for the All Blacks and also played for the Maori All Blacks. A natural leader, Latimer played in Japan and France. He is now back living in the Bay of Plenty, where he has a kiwifruit orchard and coaches club side Rangiuru, as well as assisting with the Bay of Plenty Volcanix in the Farah Palmer Cup.

6. Liam Messam
From one Chiefs legend to another. Liam Messam is the most-capped Chiefs player of all time, with 179 caps to his name and second in Super Rugby history, behind Wyatt Crockett. He debuted for the Chiefs in 2006 and his career with the Chiefs spanned 12 years over two stints. A fierce skipper, Messam made his All Blacks debut against Scotland in 2008 and went onto play 43 Tests. Like Latimer, Messam kick-started his career in Sevens, captaining the side to World Series titles in 2004 and 2005 and winning gold at both the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games. At the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season, Messam moved to France, where he’s been with Toulon ever since.

5. Brodie Retallick
A Chiefs and All Blacks mainstay, Brodie Retallick made his Chiefs debut in the successful 2012 campaign, having earlier played for the Hawke’s Bay Magpies and starring for the New Zealand Under 20’s in their World Cup win in Italy in 2011. He made his All Blacks debut just a few months before the Chiefs won their maiden title in 2012. Retallick is a world-class lock and proved that by taking out the World Rugby Player of the Year gong in 2014. He’s got a high work rate and uncompromising attitude, and he’s gone onto play 81 All Blacks Tests. Ahead of the Covid-19 crisis, Retallick was in Japan playing for the Kobelco Steelers on a two-year sabbatical. He’s set to return to the Chiefs in 2021.

4. Craig Clarke ©
A double Super Rugby winning captain, Craig Clarke was inspirational for the Chiefs. He had an extremely high work rate and had a major influence on the Chiefs’ success. Clarke grew up in Poverty Bay and kicked off his rugby career in Canterbury before moving to play for Taranaki in the national provincial competition. He played for the Crusaders and Hurricanes before settling in at the Chiefs. After five seasons in Hamilton, Clarke signed on with Irish club Connacht, but was unfortunately forced into retirement because of ongoing concussion problems. He’s now back in Taranaki, as forwards coach for the Bulls in the Mitre 10 Cup.

3. Ben Tameifuna
Ben Temeifuna is another player that joined the Chiefs squad alongside Dave Rennie in 2012 and he quickly became the Chiefs first-choice tighthead prop. Like Retallick, Tameifuna tasted Junior World Cup success with the New Zealand Under 20s in 2011 and he’s gone onto represent Tonga on the world stage, most recently at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Tameifuna played 65 games for the Chiefs before leaving at the end of the 2015 Super Rugby season and linking up with Racing 92 in France, where he has been ever since. He is the nephew of fellow Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo.

2. Mahonri Schwalger
A former Manu Samoa captain, hooker Mahonri Schwalger played three successful seasons for the Chiefs from 2012 until his retirement from rugby in 2014. He started playing for Hawke’s Bay in 1999 and went onto play for Wellington, Taranaki, and Counties Manukau in the NPC. In Super Rugby, Schwalger had two stints with the Highlanders and also played for the Hurricanes before moving to Hamilton with the Chiefs. Schwalger represented Samoa at three World Cups, captaining the side in 2011. Now he’s retired, Schwalger is giving back to the game as the Director and founder of Rugby Academy Samoa, where he is working to develop the best young rugby talents in Samoa and get them opportunities overseas.

1. Sona Taumalolo
Sona Taumalolo lined up beside his nephew in the front row when the Chiefs won the title in 2012. Taumalolo was a crowd favourite with Chiefs fans, making his debut for the club in 2008. Tongan-born, the likeable prop, who loved to score tries, moved to New Zealand in 2001 when he was 19. He’s another Chiefs player that came out of the Hawke’s Bay province. He made his Test debut for Tonga in 2011, scoring Tonga’s only try against the All Blacks. Taumaolo moved to France in 2012, playing for Perpignan. He briefly joined Racing 92, before going onto play 70 matches for Grenoble. Unfortunately, in 2018, at the age of 36, Taumalolo was forced to retire because of spinal issues.

Remembering the Chiefs class of 2012