With the Kiwi Super Rugby squads now named, Christopher Reive looks at how the teams stack up.
Ignoring first five-eighth because it's unclear when Beauden Barrett will join the team, the Blues will rely on their strong running midfield to provide an attacking punch – something the lacked last year. English import Joe Marchant looks set to lineup alongside Rieko Ioane in the starting side, though should they decide to leave Ioane on the wing, TJ Faiane and Tanielu Tele'a are solid starting options.
Whoever wins the starting halfback role will be set up to have a breakout season. Jonathan Ruru showed promise last season, but Sam Nock and new recruit Finlay Christie will push for the No 9 jersey. They've all shown promise but have yet to make the next step at Super Rugby level.
Bolter: Jordan Hyland
With Rieko Ioane moving into the midfield, a spot on the wing opens up. Hyland could stake his claim to the spot, on the back of a solid Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Northland. He has Super Rugby experience with the Highlanders and will embrace the opportunity to play for his home team.
Gains: Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie, Joe Marchant, Mark Tale'a, Baden Wardlaw, Kurt Eklund, Emoni Narawa, Jack Heighton, Jared Page.
Losses: Sonny Bill Williams, Scott Scrafton, Michael Collins, Ma'a Nonu, Augustine Pulu, Jimmy Tupou, Melani Nanai, Matt Moulds, Jed Brown.
First five rounds: v Chiefs, at Waratahs, v Crusaders, at Bulls, at Stormers.
Strength: Loose forwards
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As the Chiefs have seemed to show year after year, their loose forward stocks run deep. While the starting trio will remain to be seen, with Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Brown among the available options, they'll be strong at the back of the scrum.
Going by squad list alone, their listed locks leave a bit to be desired. They have experience in Tyler Ardron and Michael Allardice, but without Brodie Retallick there's a big workload to fill. Loose forward Mitchell Brown could see some time at lock, with uncapped duo Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Laghlan McWhannell the other options.
Bolter: Pita Gus Sowakula
Having been in the Chiefs environment for a couple of years, Sowakula is a prime candidate to make the step up. Able to play at flanker, No8 or lock, the 25-year-old Fijian will have every opportunity to make his mark on the competition this season.
Gains: Aaron Cruden, Dylan Nel, Kini Naholo, Quinn Tupaea, Reuben O'Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Laghlan McWhannell, Lisati Milo-Harris, Kaleb Trask.
Losses: Brodie Retallick, Jonathan Tuamateine, Jack Debreczeni, Stephen Donald, Ataata Moeakiola, Taleni Seu, Sosefo Kauatai.
First five rounds: at Blues, v Crusaders, at Sunwolves, v Brumbies, bye.
Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles and Ricky Riccitelli. It's hard to find better hooking stocks than that.
Weakness: First five-eighths
Beauden Barrett is a tough guy to replace, and the Hurricanes will call on a couple of young players to step up. Jackson Garden-Bachop and Fletcher Smith look likely to fight over the No10 jersey, though veteran James Marshall, returning from a stint in Japan, could make a play for the role.
Bolter: Isaia Walker-Leawere
He made some strides toward the end of last season and looks poised to push on in 2020. He's got the opportunity to secure a starting role in the locks and has shown plenty of potential across the park.
Gains: Tyrel Lomax, Kobus van Wyk, Jamie Booth, Scott Scrafton, Jonathan Taumateine, Murphy Taramai, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Devan Flanders.
Losses: Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Lousi, Matt Proctor, Sam Henwood, Chris Eves, Richard Judd, Andries Ferreira, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Toby Smith.
First five rounds: at Stormers, at Jaguares, v Sharks, bye, v Sunwolves.
Strength: Outside backs
Talent, skill and speed is what you'll find when you look at the Crusaders backline. All Blacks duo Sevu Reece and George Bridge are likely to start on the wings, while Will Jordan and David Havili will again be pushing each other.
Weakness: Loose forwards
Losing their key players in the loose trio, the Crusaders will look to a fresh-faced group going forward. Whetukamokamo Douglas is the most experienced of the group with 22 caps.
Bolter: Quinten Strange
With every opportunity to begin the season as a starting lock, Strange could burst onto the scene in a big way in 2020. Reliable at the set piece, a strong ball runner and efficient defensively, the 23-year-old is a player to keep an eye on.
Gains: Brodie McAlister, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili, Ethan Root, Fergus Burke, Dallas McLeod, Inga Finau, Fetuli Paea.
Losses: Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Sam Whitelock, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Kieran Read, Mitch Hunt, Ryan Crotty, Ngane Punivai, Israel Dagg.
First five rounds: v Waratahs, at Chiefs, at Blues, v Highlanders, bye.
The consistent duo of Teihorangi Walden and Rob Thompson returns to the side this year, with Sio Tomkinson providing depth for both inside and outside backs. They've added Michael Collins from the Blues and Ngane Punivai from the Crusaders to add to their arsenal.
Weakness: Outside backs
Losing all of their starters from 2019, the Highlanders are going to need some time to get their back three working well. Four of their seven signings are uncapped, while the other three have played less than 10.
Bolter: Josh McKay
At risk of contradicting the above, Josh McKay is a player Highlanders fans should be very excited by. The early front-runner to lock down the No15 jersey, McKay is impressive when he gets the ball with some room to move, and he showed during the Mitre 10 Cup that is defence is coming along nicely.
Gains: Mitch Hunt, Ngane Punivai, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Sione Misiloi, Kirisi Kuridrani, Zane Kapeli, Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Losses: Tyrel Lomax, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, Marty Banks, Richard Buckman, Matt Faddes, Tevita Li, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith, Tom franklin, Aki Seiuli, Elliot Dixon.
First five rounds: Bye, v Sharks, at Brumbies, at Crusaders, v Rebels.