A mix of well performed provincial and promising First XV northern region talent from the last two seasons highlights the naming of the 2016 Chiefs Development squad.
Aspiring Chiefs players will get their chance to impress and further hone their trade as part of this programme. Thirty-seven players have been named in the squad with representation across provincial unions in the Chiefs region.
The Chiefs Development squad was selected in consultation with Chiefs region provincial union coaches on the basis of their PU performances and the potential for future Chiefs selection.
The Chiefs Development programme will include matches with the Blues Development team on February 26 and April 8, the Hurricanes Development team on March 9 and a tour to Hong Kong in April in partnership with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union. The success of the Chiefs Development squad's 2015 tour to Hong Kong has led to a return visit which will see the side train with and play a match against the Hong Kong national squad.
The squad will be coached by Chiefs player development manager Dave Dillon, former Chiefs skipper Deon Muir, Bay of Plenty assistant coach Rodney Gibbs and Waikato's Rhys Bayliss.
Coach Dave Dillon said the programme had an important mandate to contribute to the ongoing development of these aspiring Super Rugby players, together with their provincial unions.
"We're very pleased with the squad we've assembled to represent their provincial unions and the Chiefs region as the Chiefs Development squad. For these players, this is a great opportunity to get a taste of representative rugby in and around the club season and to further their development both on and off the field," said Dillon.
The programme also served to further strengthen the positive relationship the Chiefs had developed with the HKRFU.
Chiefs high performance manager Chris Tindall added: "Our relationship built up with the HKRFU provides an exciting international touring, training and playing experience to add to the players' development to learn from and enjoy. Our tour last year was a great success all round, including to serve the Hong Kong squad's preparation for their following Asian Championship test matches."
The Chiefs Development squad jersey will feature the new naming rights sponsor the University of Waikato under a partnership developed between the Chiefs and the University of Waikato. The jersey will also again feature the Kobelco logo in recognition of the Chiefs' established high performance partnership with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan, which will see three Kobelco players visit the Chiefs and join the Chiefs development programme.
Coaches: Dave Dillon, Deon Muir, Rodney Gibbs, Rhys Bayliss
Manager: Gareth Duncan
Strength and conditioning coach: Brad Mayo
Physio: Paul Smiler
Doctor: Turuki Tahuri
Analyst: Mark Ray
2016 Chiefs Development squad
Duke Nginingini (Waikato)
Sosefo Kautai (Waikato)
Solomona Sakalia (Bay of Plenty)
Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
Jeff Thwaites (Bay of Plenty)
Mike Kainga (Bay of Plenty)
Liam Polwart (Bay of Plenty)
Gafatasi Su'a (Counties Manukau)
Sekope Lopeti (Waikato)
Jacob Skeen (Waikato)
Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty)
Sikeli Nabou (Counties Manukau)
Brian Alainu'uese (Waikato)
Fin Hoeata (Taranaki)
Shahn Eru (Bay of Plenty)
Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato)
Henry Stowers (Bay of Plenty)
Mitchell Brown (Taranaki)
Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
Josh Dowsing (Waikato)
Hayden Anderson (Thames Valley)
Luke Jacobson (Waikato)
Pele Cowley (Waikato)
Richard Judd (Counties Manukau)
Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau)
Daniel Hollinshead (Bay of Plenty)
Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau)
Cardiff Vaega (Counties Manukau)
Lalakai Foketi (Bay of Plenty)
Nathaniel Apa (Waikato)
Amanaki Savieti (Waikato)
Elijah Nicholas (Bay of Plenty)
Monty Ioane (Bay of Plenty)
Shelford Murray (Waikato)
Manasa Mataele (Taranaki)
Codey Rei (Taranaki)
Te Aihe Toma (Bay of Plenty)
Unavailable due to injury or other commitments
Reuben O'Neill (Taranaki), Troy Callander (Bay of Plenty), Sam Henwood (Counties Manukau), Jordan Payne (Waikato), Jared Page (Counties Manukau) and Jason Thomasen (Waikato)