Otago pair Collins, Ruru named in Blues squad

Michael Collins
Michael Collins
Two Otago players will be looking to help the Blues get off the bottom of Super Rugby's New Zealand conference next year.

Utility back Michael Collins and halfback Jonathan Ruru were both named in the Auckland-based side yesterday, the only Otago players to get Super Rugby contracts outside the Highlanders.

Collins will likely slot in at fullback, as he did this year, while Ruru is new to the set-up and will battle Augustine Pulu and Sam Nock for game time.

The team is looking to snap a streak of four consecutive bottom-placed finishes in the New Zealand conference, although on paper that may be a tough ask.

Jonathan Ruru
Jonathan Ruru
It looks particularly light at first five-eighth and has drawn on veteran Daniel Kirkpatrick to replace injured key signing Otere Black.

Youngsters Bryn Gatland and Stephen Perofeta are its other options .

The side boasts some dangerous outside backs and strong ball-running forwards, although it is much the same as the players who have struggled in recent years.

The Chiefs have picked up six newcomers - the most significant being Marty McKenzie joining brother Damian - but lost plenty of quality.

All Blacks Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow are gone, as are James Lowe, Hika Elliot, Michael Leitch and Tom Sanders.

That should leave former Otago halfback Brad Weber as the first-choice for the No9 jersey, while Damian McKenzie looks to become the No1 first five-eighth.

It has a solid forward pack, spearheaded by Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane.

The Crusaders have retained the majority of their champion squad from this year.

Of the six new additions, loose forward Tom Sanders is the most notable, a good pick-up from the Chiefs.

He joins an already All Black-laden forward pack, as does Ethan Blackadder, son of former captain and coach Todd.

With the likes of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read in its pack and Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg out wider, this team is in good shape to defend its title.

The Hurricanes have picked up loose forward Gareth Evans from the Highlanders, one of several valuable additions.

Others include first five-eighths Ihaia West and Jackson Garden-Bachop, experienced prop Toby Smith and youngsters Alex Fidow and new All Black Asafo Aumua.

The majority of their key players return, arguably none more valuable for the franchise in recent years than Beauden Barrett.

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