The on-going success story that is the Tasman Mako had a positive spin-off when the 2019 NZ Super Rugby squads were named today.
No less than twenty of the 2018 Mako squad picked up Super Rugby contracts for next season.
BY PETER JONES AND JONTY DINE
The majority will link up with the champion Crusaders team - Tim Perry, Andrew Makalio, Quinten Strange, Ethan Blackadder, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Hunt, David Havili, Leicester Faingaanuku and Will Jordan.
Forwards Ray Niuia, Tyrel Lomax, Pari Pari Parkinson, Liam Squire and Shannon Frizell will turn out for the Highlanders, Kane Hames, Alex Nankivell, and Solomon Alaimalo have been named in the Chiefs, Levi Aumua and Jed Brown will represent the Blues, the new home of Mako head coach Leon MacDonald, while halfback Finlay Christie will be the solo Tasman representative at the Hurricanes.
New to the Super Rugby scene are Waitohi hooker Niuia and Faingaanuku.
The 18-year-old put pen to paper a fortnight ago but had to keep the signing under wraps.
"Knowing I was going to be playing Super next season was tough to keep inside.”
Leicester says he will be star struck to rub shoulder with his idols.
Having spent some time in Crusaders pre-season camp, Leicester says he was always leaning toward the franchise.
"They are a champion side and to develop as a player down there is an opportunity any kid would want and one I will take with two hands."
The former Nelson College students says it is a dream come true for him and his family.
"To do what I love as a job and play rugby for the next few years as a living is unreal.”
He says he plans to be a sponge once in the Crusaders environment.
"I will just look to Learn off them and pick their brains as much as I can.”
Meanwhile, a couple of former Tasman favourites return to Super Rugby in 2019.
Marty Banks will rejoin the Highlanders, where he became something of a cult figure, while James Marshall, who was part of the Hurricanes' 2016 title-winning squad, returns from overseas to link up with the ‘Canes again.
MAKO SUPER PLAYERS
Chiefs -Alex Nankivell, Kane Hames, Solomon Alaimalo
Crusaders - David Havili, Ethan Blackadder, Quin Strange, Leicester Faingaanuku*, Mitch Hunt, Will Jordan, Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry, Jordan Taufua
Highlanders - Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Squire, Ray Niuia*, Shannon Frizell
Blues - Jed Brown, Levi Aumua
Hurricanes - Finlay Christie