Super Rugby kicks off tonight when the Rebels host the Blues in Melbourne.
First XV rugby is not too far away either. Here are ten names to keep a close eye on in 2017.
Etene Nanai (St. Kentigern College) - Aggressively courted by Australian Rugby League, Nani has chosen to commit to rugby and with good reason. The wing and fullback scored a series of electrifying tries on Land Rover First XV rugby last year, including two from halfway in the 1A semi final against Sacred Heart College. Nanai will seek to improve his defensive game, but his ability to counter attack is unquestionable.
Isi Manu (Dilworth College) - Dilworth College took more than a century to reach the 1A grade, but have remained in the top division for the last two seasons largely on the back of uncompromising forward play spearhead by huge No.8 Isi Manu. Any side that faces Dilworth, win or lose, always ends with a few bruises and bringing down Manu is one of the reasons why. Manu revels with ball in hand and last year increased his workload off the ball.
Keelan Whitman (St. Pats Town) - The athletic Wellington Under-16 lock impressed with several starts for St. Pats Town as a Year 11. In a young forward pack much will be expected of Whitman who may move out to the flank. Growing in physical statue, Whitman is a fine jumper in the lineouts and busy around the field. The calibre of locks in Wellington will be impressive this year with Naitoa Ah Koi and Taine Plumtree forming a strong combination for Wellington College and Iona Apineru from St. Pats Silverstream another eye-catching talent.
John Latu (Mount Albert Grammar School) - MAGS have 18 players returning from their 30-man National championship winning squad . Perhaps the most important individual is John Latu. The No.8 played every single game in 2016 and packing in at a hefty 114kg has the size and power to became a dominant player.
Lewis Jones (Otago BHS) - Otago appears to have assembled a strong roster again with 12 returns. A new acquisition from West Sussex in England is 130kg prop Lewis Jones. Coach Ryan Martin is excited by Jones who he describes as a "powerful scrummager" and "mobile for a big lad." Otago has fashioned a reputation for 'beast' forwards in recent seasons with the likes of Sione Asi, Sekonaia Pole and Jonah Aoina all attaining higher honours.
Hayze Perham (Rotorua BHS) - Perham has been noticed by the Penrith NRL franchise for his excellence in both codes. An quick stepping, robust centre Perham has twice won the National Secondary Schools touch championship and will be a key figure for a rebuilding Rotorua squad in 2017.
Lincoln McClutchie (Hastings BHS) - The captain of Hastings BHS in 2016 returns for a Year 14 season determined to capture a National title which eluded Hastings by a single point in Palmerston North last year. McClutchie was a New Zealand Barbarians selection promoted to the New Zealand Schools following a spate of injures. McClutchie is a first-five with fine distribution skills, quick feet and a growing ability to read the game. An obvious presence with his constant chat, McClutchie with greater experience will be looking to dominate in 2017.
Malo Manuao (Scots College) - Manuao enters his fourth season of First XV rugby, but remarkably was eligible for the Wellington Under-16's last year who won the Hurricanes Regional tournament in Palmerston North. Scots had a poor 2016 missing the semi-finals in the Capital having made the National Top Four final the previous two seasons. Manuao's play suffered with the demise of Scots, but the stocky winger, who might shift into the midfield, has serious ability. A prodigious boot is complemented by rock solid defense and the strength and speed to break the line.
Kaleb Talamahina (Southland BHS) - Talamahina enters his third full season of First XV rugby hoping to catch the eye of the New Zealand selectors. A National age-group touch rep, Talamahina covers wing and fullback with equal competence. His try against Otago BHS on Land Rover First XV rugby last year, when he run through the entire Otago team from his 22, caught fire on social media.
Isaiah Punivai (Christ's College) - Was the leading try scorer in the UC Championship with 16 as a Year 11. Punivai has the ability to play multiple positions in the backline, but may settle at fullback where his boot and pace in space can be utilized best. Isaiah's brother Ngane Punivai represented the NZ Schools last year.
The wider Black Ferns training squad has been named today, as preparations for August’s Women’s Rugby World Cup ramp up.
The 51-strong squad will be part of a regional training programme designed to identify and develop the best players in the country.
In 2016 the Black Ferns were unbeaten in both their home series against Australia, and away series against Canada, England and Ireland.
Black Ferns Coach Glenn Moore said the Women’s World Cup in Ireland and Northern Ireland was the focus for 2017.
“We’ll be making World Cup selections from this wider training group. With an Olympic medal-winning sevens team and a growing provincial tournament there’s a lot of talent out there and the number of women with the black jersey in their sights is on the rise. We want to make sure we take the strongest squad possible to the World Cup.”
The squad features all 2016 Black Ferns and includes Black Ferns Linda Itunu, Justine Lavea, Lesley Ketu and Stacey Waaka who are all returning from injury.
Black Ferns trials will take place in mid-May.
Details of an international home series in June will be announced in the coming weeks.
2017 Black Ferns Women’s Rugby World Cup training squad
NAME - PROVINCE
Eloise Blackwell - Auckland
Fiao'o Faamausili - Auckland
Charlene Gubb - Auckland
Aldora Itunu - Auckland
Linda Itunu - Auckland
Emma Jensen - Auckland
Charmaine McMenamin - Auckland
Aleisha Nelson - Auckland
Theresa Fitzpatrick - Auckland
Kiritapu Demant - Auckland
Tyla Nathan-Wong - Auckland
Luka Connor - Bay of Plenty
Kelly Brazier - Bay of Plenty
Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox - Canterbury
Kendra Cocksedge - Canterbury
Jessie Hansen - Canterbury
Pip Love - Canterbury
Justine Lavea - Counties Manukau
Rawinia Everitt - Counties Manukau
Aotearoa (Katie) Mata'u - Counties Manukau
Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate - Counties Manukau
Aroha Savage - Counties Manukau
Renee Wickliffe - Counties Manukau
Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali - Counties Manukau
Arihana Marino - Counties Manukau
Sharnita Woodman - Counties Manukau
Badin-Lee Munro-Smith - Counties Manukau
Hazel Tubic - Counties Manukau
Portia Woodman - Counties Manukau
Kristina Sue - Manawatu
Janna Vaughan - Manawatu
Sarah Goss - Manawatu
Selica Winiata - Manawatu
Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga - Manawatu
Cyrstal Mayes - Manawatu
Becky Wood - North Harbour
Chelsea Alley - North Harbour
Charmaine Smith - North Harbour
Emma Iverson - North Harbour
Angie Sisifa - Otago
Greer Muir - Otago
Sosoli Talawadua - Waikato
Toka Natua - Waikato
Carla Hohepa - Waikato
Honey Hireme - Waikato
Lesley Ketu - Waikato
Stacey Waaka - Waikato
Jackie Fereti - Wellington
Joanah Ngan-Woo - Wellington
Ayesha Leti-Liga - Wellington
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand