John Day: Super Rugby 2020 team-by-team preview - Chiefs

With the Super Rugby season descending quickly upon us - yes, it's still summer outside - Newshub rugby tragic John Day casts his discerning eye over how the New Zealand teams are shaping up for next week's kick-off.


Titles: Two (2012, 13)
Last season: Seventh (7-7-2), lost quarter-final to Jaguares

Coach: Warren Gatland


Props - Ryan Coxon, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Reuben O'Neill, Aidan Ross, Angus Ta'avao, Robb Cobb, Ross Geldenhuys, Ollie Norris 

Hookers - Nathan Harris, Bradley Slater, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Donald Maka

Locks - Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Michael Allardice, Tyler Ardron, Laghlan McWhannell, Tupou Vaa'i 

Loose forwards - Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Karpik, Dylan Nel, Pita Gus Sowakula, James Thompson, Adam Thomson

Halfbacks - Lisati Milo-Harris, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Brad Weber, Leroy Carter

First-Fives - Aaron Cruden, Tiaan Falcon, Damian McKenzie, Kaleb Trask

Midfield - Orbyn Leger, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tumua Manu, Alex Nankivell, Bailyn Sullivan

Outside Backs - Solomon Alaimalo, Sam McNicol, Kini Naholo, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Shaun Stevenson, Quinn Tupaea, Sean Wainui

2020 Schedule

Jan 31 @Blues

Feb 8 v Crusaders

Feb 15 @Sunwolves

Feb 22 v Brumbies

Mar 6 @Waratahs

Mar 13 v Hurricanes

Mar 22 @Sharks

Mar 29 @Lions

Apr 4 v Bulls

Apr 10 @Highlanders

Apr 25 v Stormers

May 1 @Hurricanes

May 9 v Highlanders

May 15 v Blues

May 22 v Rebels

May 30 @Crusaders

Biggest loss

Some players can't be replaced and that's the case for Brodie Retallick, who's spending the next two seasons in Japanese rugby. The All Blacks lock is the best in the world, and his playing ability, leadership and massive engine will be sorely missed.

Warren Gatland guides Wales at the Rugby World Cup
Warren Gatland guides Wales at the Rugby World Cup. Photo credit: Photosport

Biggest gain

Being able to recruit Warren Gatland is a huge coup. The Waikato legend has come home to Hamilton with a world-class CV at both Wales and the British & Irish Lions.

Gatland's a proven winner and the Chiefs are definitely one of the favourites with him at the helm.

Biggest question - Can the Chiefs stay fit?

Injuries seem to plague the Chiefs more than any other team. Their top XV should be able to mix it with any other team in the competition, but if key players such as Sam Cane, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Luke Jacobson and Aaron Cruden get injured, there could be big problems.

Key player

No-one is more fun to watch in Super Rugby than Damian McKenzie. The first-five experiment appears to be over (thank goodness), which should sound alarm bells to the rest of the competition.

A fully fit McKenzie is the best attacking fullback going around and is set to rip it up, after last season's knee injury.

Who the hell is he?

When it comes to exciting, young talent, Kini Naholo is be right up there. The 20-year-old brother of ex-All Black Waisake carved up for Hastings Boys High School in his final year of school, scoring 40 tries in 20 games.

Kini Naholo in action for Hastings Boys High
Kini Naholo in action for Hastings Boys High. Photo credit: Photosport

He hasn't played a lot of first-class rugby since then, but look out when he gets his chance.

Fearless prediction

Dave Rennie did it in his first season, and I'm picking Warren Gatland to do the same and win Super Rugby. The Chiefs are stacked up front, have explosive loose forwards, experienced inside backs and are dangerous out wide.

With a master coach on board, there's no reason why the Chiefs shouldn't add a third title to the cabinet.

John Day is a Newshub sports reporter