The Super 15 always produces new household names. Michael Brown looks at a newcomer from each of the five New Zealand franchises who could make an impact in 2011.


There's a saying Blues coach Pat Lam likes to use - there's no point training like Tarzan and playing like Jane.

Mathew Luamanu couldn't be accused of playing like Jane when he's clutching a ball. The 22-year-old has trimmed down to 123kg from a listed weight of 129kg and is one of the most devastating ball-runners in New Zealand rugby. He's clearly big, powerful and has enough speed to be a menace.

His challenge, however, is to do that consistently for 80 minutes as well as perform his other jobs like tackling and work at the breakdown.

Luamanu could become a weapon for the Blues this season, either as a starter or off the bench. The serious knee injury to the returning Brad Mika has presented an opening and Luamanu is battling with Chris Lowrey and Peter Saili for the starting No 8 position. Lam says it will come down to pre-season form. He's looking for his Tarzan.

"Playing No 8 is the equivalent of a decathlete," Lam says. "You have to have the endurance, speed, strength ... that's the challenge for Mat, Peter or Chris. As a ball carrier, Mat is right up there. If you look at other areas, he has a bit of work to do, like a lot of players in the country. Nothing to do with his rugby ability, it's to do with his conditioning.

"I said to him at the beginning he's a long-term project. Jerome Kaino was very similar when he first came through. His rugby ability was unquestioned and it's taken five or six years to get where he is now."

Luamanu has shown glimpses of where he could go. Last year, he scored two hat-tricks for North Harbour, one in 11 minutes against Manawatu, and became a crowd favourite for his bruising approach. He was rewarded with a first Super 15 contract with the Blues.

Luamanu had always assumed he would become a Hurricanes player, if he ever made it to Super Rugby level. He grew up in Wellington, where he was a try-scoring first five-eighths until he went to high school, and made his Lions debut in 2008.

He soon realised, however, his chances in the capital were limited. He might have been a New Zealand Schoolboys and under-20 representative but he was down the pecking order at senior level. That was when he answered a call from Harbour coach Craig Dowd.

"He could go a long way," Dowd said last year. "When I signed him from Wellington, I could see there was something special about him. He has outstanding speed for a big man, he's really keen and he's really coachable. He's got a big future. In a different era, you could put him on the wing and call him Jonah."

In a different era, he would be an absolute behemoth. Some props barely registered triple figures. Kieran Read has become the benchmark for the world's No 8s and he's 17kg lighter than Luamanu at 106kg. That's why Luamanu's conditioning is crucial in today's high-octane game.

Luamanu now thinks he's at his optimum weight after following a rigorous summer programme devised by the Blues' trainers.

"I have trimmed down to 123kg," he says. "I don't want to lose too much strength or power so somewhere around the 120s is good for me. I am pretty close to that goal now. I'm pretty happy with where I am at the moment.

"I am a big unit by Super 15 standards. You don't really see many loose forwards at that weight. They're usually around 105kg-110kg but my body has managed to cope with it.

"I have heard a lot about work rate and I take that on board. It makes me train even harder and I push myself even more to become that 80-minute player."`


It will be a big year for a handful of young No 10s as the All Blacks coaches find the best candidate to act as Dan Carter's back-up for the World Cup. It won't be Lima Sopoaga but it will still be a significant season for the recently-turned 20-year-old.

Sopoaga was a little-known teenager six months ago before Wellington coach Andre Bell took a chance with the former schoolboy representative. The first five-eighths played nine games for the Lions and showed he was a player of considerable promise.

He was supposed to be Colin Slade's back-up but Slade is out for up to two months with a broken jaw, meaning Sopoaga will likely be handed the No 10 jersey. Sopoaga ventured to Dunedin for a chance to prove himself at this level and will get that chance sooner than expected.


It might have seen baffling to some, including Matt Todd, but the young Canterbury tyro was considered a bolter for last year's All Blacks tour. Both Richard Loe and Justin Marshall would have picked the 21-year-old openside after impressive form in Canterbury's winning ITM Cup season.

He's often been compared to a young Richie McCaw, in both size and style, and has a perfect opportunity this year to learn from the All Blacks captain.

He's quick, smart and an excellent ball forager but might have to content himself with time on the blindside this season (assuming, God help us, McCaw doesn't get injured). Todd played a handful of games at No 6 in last year's ITM Cup.

If he did one day make the All Blacks, and the signs are good, he would become the first from Kaiapoi since prop John Ashworth in the 1980s.


Julian Savea has long been turning heads. Last year, the high school star was named 2010 IRB Junior Player of the Year after scoring eight tries in four games in helping New Zealand to the Under-20 World Cup crown.

He also marked his first-class debut with a length-of-the-field runaway try in a pre-season win over Canterbury and backed it up with eight tries for Wellington in last year's ITM Cup.

At 1.92m and 103kg and with genuine pace, Savea is an exciting prospect and Gordon Tietjens recognised this by picking the powerful wing in his New Zealand sevens squad in 2009.

The Hurricanes already have All Black wings Hosea Gear and Cory Jane but if Jane shifts back to fullback, as he did in 2010, Savea could round out an exciting Hurricanes backline.


The Chiefs website lists Fritz Lee as being born on November 10, 2010. Super Rugby would be a remarkable achievement for a three-month old. Lee is youngish - 22 - and it's a measure of his potential that the Blues were also chasing him for this season.

The former New Zealand sevens representative opted for a two-year deal with his local franchise after an excellent year with Counties Manukau.

With the departures of Sione Lauaki, Jarrad Hoeata and Luke Braid, and injury to Colin Bourke, Lee is expected to play a significant role in the Chiefs pack this season alongside Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer and Scott Waldrom. The powerful No 8 is one of the hardest hitters in the game - he modelled his game on Jerry Collins - and is best known for his near decapitation of Northland's Luke Hamilton in an ITM Cup game. He received a three-match ban.