Super Rugby Aupiki: Chiefs Manawa shore up depth as women's franchises reveal rosters for 2024

Deposed champions Chiefs Manawa have made the biggest moves, as the four New Zealand women's franchises name their rosters for the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki season.

Winners of the inaugural competition, under now-Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting, the Waikato-based outfit were shocked by the southern Matatū in this year's final, after fullback Tenika Willison missed two late kicks that could have changed the outcome.

Chiefs haven't taken the outcome lying down, snatching one of their rivals' stars from that encounter - Black Ferns fullback Renee Holmes, who scored 23 of the Matatū points in a 33-31 victory.

Renee Holmes in action for Matatū.
Renee Holmes in action for Matatū. Photo credit: Photosport

Centre Grace Steinmetz also crosses Cook Straight, bound for Hamilton, while current or former internationals Ruby Tui, Chelsea Semple, Ariana Bayler and Krystal Murray are others added to a formidable line-up.

"We have selected a team that, by nature, plays to our DNA - brutal and beautiful," said new coach Crystal Kaua. "Players that love the dark spaces, are decisive, instinctive and wanting to play what's in front."

"Every player and staff member brings their unique piece to our team puzzle. There will be no lack of edge, and weekly selection is going to be tough."

The Chiefs haven't limited their search for talent to NZ shores, recruiting Fijian Bitila Tawake and Japanese Seina Saito from afar.

Matatū have responded by signing English winger Charlotte Woodman and luring blockbuster No.8 Kaipo Olsen-Baker south. Other major moves see former sevens star Niall Williams-Guthrie join the Blues, while Hurricanes welcome former Black Ferns prop Leilani Perese back from childbirth.

"It's great to see so many strong performers from the Farah Palmer Cup rewarded with their first contracts," said NZ Rugby women's high performance manager Hannah Porter.

"This competition is proving to be a great steppingstone for our players, as they strive for higher honours, and with the extended preparation window for our players, we are looking forward to seeing the positive influence that will have on the competition."

Super Rugby Aupiki 2024 will run over an extended format of two home-and-away rounds, followed by a final. Squads have been boosted to 30 players and player payments have doubled.

Blues: Kahlia Awa, Eloise Blackwell, Dajian Brown, Sylvia Brunt, Rebecca Burch, Krysten Cottrell, Ruahei Demant, Esther Faiaoga-Tilo, Sophie Fisher, Grace Gago, Aldora Itunu, Kerri Johnson, Jaymie Kolose, Patricia Maliepo, Paris Mataroa, Charmaine McMenamin, Angelica Mekemeke Vahai, Liana Mikaele Tu'u, Elizabith Moimoi, Daynah Nankivell, Alakoka Po'oi, Mel Puckett, Maddi Robinson, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Cheyenne Tuli-Fale, Tara-Leigh Turner, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Maama Vaipulu, Chryss Viliko and Niall Williams-Guthrie

Kaipo Olsen-Baker in action for Hurricanes Poua.
Kaipo Olsen-Baker in action for Hurricanes Poua. Photo credit: Photosport

Chiefs Manawa: Reese Anderson, Mia Anderson, Ariana Bayler, Chelsea Bremner, Luka Connor, Georgia Thompson (nee Daals), Ashlee Gaby-Sutherland, Kate Henwood, Chyna Hohepa, Renee Holmes, Tanya Kalounivale, Grace Kukutai, Azalleyah Maaka, Victoria Makea, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Krystal Murray, Apii Nicholls, Merania Parone, Mererangi Paul, Te Uru Pounamu McGarvey, Vici-Rose Green, Seina Saito, Chelsea Semple, Kennedy Simon, Charmaine Smith, Grace Steinmetz, Bitila Tawake, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui, Olive Watherston

Hurricanes Poua: Shakira Baker, Tamia Edwards, Maddie Feaunati, Teilah Fergusson, Rhiarna Ferris, Te Rauoriwa Gapper, Leilani Hakiwai, Iritana Hohaia, Tori Iosefo, Harmony Kautai, Hannah King, Marilyn Fanoga (nee Live), Paige Lush, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Te Uarangi Olsen-Baker, Jackie Patea-Fereti, Leilani Perese, Elinor Plum-King, Cilia-Marie Po'e-Tofaeono, Holly-Rae Mete, Rachael Rakatau, Layla Sae, Rangimarie Sturmey, Kahurangi Sturmey, Monica Tagoai, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook, Samantha Taylor, Cristo Tofa, Isabella Waterman

Matatū: Laura Bayfield, Alana Bremner, Grace Brooker, Georgia Cormick, Cheyenne Cunningham, Emma Dermody, Eilis Doyle, Amy du Plessis, Di Hiini, Tegan Hollows, Lucy Jenkins, Maia Joseph, Rosie Kelly, Atlanta Lolohea, Pip Love, Martha Mataele, Liv McGoverne, Leah Miles, Stacey Niao, Kaipo Olsen Baker, Winnie Palamo, Moomooga (Ashley) Palu, Marcelle Parkes, Georgia Ponsonby, Kendra Reynolds, Chey Robins-Reti, Amy Rule, Fiaali'i Solomona, Charlotte Woodman, Holly Wratt-Groeneweg