Super Rugby Pacific: Lock Patrick Tuipulotu returns as Blues captain under new coach Vern Cotter

Veteran lock Patrick Tuipulotu has been handed the opportunity to add to his credentials as Blues captain, regainin the leadership under new coach Vern Cotter for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Tuipulotu, 30, is the last Blues captain to hoist a trophy, after leading them to the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman crown during COVID-19, but missed the following season, while on sabbatical with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz.

In his absence, All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii inheritted the captaincy and retained it, despite Tuipulotu's return last year. That baton will be passed back for the coming season.

Patrick Tuipulotu hoists the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman trophy.
Patrick Tuipulotu hoists the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman trophy. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The feeling you get leading this side into battle each week is something special," said Tuipulotu, who will bring up 100 appearances next time he takes the field.

"We've got a core of experienced Blues men who lead in their own way and it's my job to empower that group of leaders to help propel the team forward.

"Captaincy comes with a weight of expectation. We represent the people of our region and, as a team, we strive to do our fans proud whenever we pull on the Blues jersey.

"We've set ourselves high standards for the 2024 campaign. We believe we have the squad to do something special and we’re working hard in the pre-season to make that a reality."

Tuipulotu, who has played 43 times for the All Blacks, missed the Blues' 2023 playoffs run with a broken arm and his team were eliminated 52-15 by eventual champions Crusaders in the semis.

"Patty is a natural leader in this group," said Cotter, who takes over from Leon MacDonald, now part of the All Blacks coaching staff.

"He's an experienced head with nearly 100 caps for the team and has the respect of the players around him. I’m confident he'll do an excellent job leading the Blues in 2024.

"We've got a group of guys in our squad with a range of leadership experience, so they'll provide a sounding board and help lighten the load for Patty throughout our campaign."