Five players to watch: The Chiefs

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Thursday, November 1, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Check out our list of five Chiefs players to keep an eye on in the 2019 Investec Super Rugby season.


Reuben O’Neill
Reuben O’Neill went right under much of the public radar during the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup.

The loosehead prop, who ended up on the tighthead side for most of the Taranaki Bulls’ campaign, did not, however, escape the notice of the All Blacks’ selectors, who whistled him up as one of 19 to prepare for the Japan Test match in Tokyo. That all came before the announcement that he was going to join the Chiefs for the 2019 Super Rugby season.

O’Neill did his core tasks well for Taranaki, for whom he debuted in 2015 after playing for NZ Schools in 2012-13. So he has been on the national pathway.

In his favour is the ability to play both sides of the scrum, which was needed for Taranaki when Angus Ta’avao himself received an All Blacks’ call-up.

He will add to the Chiefs’ front-row depth, with several returning from injury.
Samisoni Taukei’aho
The 21-year-old Waikato hooker is coming off a sterling Mitre 10 Cup campaign.

Not only did he help the Mooloos win promotion to the Premership, but he scored nine tries in the process. Only two other players – both wings – scored more tries in the competition.

Taukei’aho was dynamic around the track, accurate with his core tasks and with a deadly ability to be in the right place to score off lineout drives. He now has 12 tries for Waikato in two full seasons.

His Chiefs debut came in 2017 and he will be desperate to push All Black Nathan Harris for a starting spot in 2019.

In the meantime, he is studying part-time for a law degree at the University of Waikato.

Laghlan McWhannell
Laghlan McWhannell has just turned 20 and is already turning heads.

The 1.98m, 114kg Waikato lock made good strides in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup under the tutelage of Jono Gibbes.

He was first noticed back in 2016 when he cracked the NZ Schools out of St Peter’s School in Cambridge. After two outings for Waikato as an 18-year-old last year, McWhannell showed his aerial range and ability around the track in 2018 alongside the likes of Tim Bond, Sam Caird and James Tucker in a very strong Waikato tight five.

He was also a member of the New Zealand Under 20s earlier this season, and looks well equipped to make the step up to Super Rugby level, perhaps filling the void left by the departed Dominic Bird. He has already had a taste of the Chiefs environment.

Jack Debreczeni
Jack Debreczeni can justifiably say he has the biggest right boot in the country.

His howitzer-like punt was put to good use for the Northland Taniwha during the Mitre 10 Cup, while his metronomic goalkicking yielded 100 points in his first season of New Zealand rugby.

Born in Auckland, Debreczeni made his mark in Australia, most recently with the Melbourne Rebels, for whom he debuted in 2014, having previously represented Australian Schoolboys.

He will provide more than useful back-up for Damian McKenzie in the Chiefs No 10 jersey, and of course McKenzie can also shift to the back to accommodate the big-kicking Debreczeni, whose game management is much improved.

Etene Nanai-Seturo
Just a year ago, Etene Nanai-Seturo was scoring a try for NZ Schools in their 34-11 victory over their Australian counterparts.

Fast forward 12 months and the still just 19-year-old has already had a fine 2018-19 campaign with the All Blacks Sevens, playing five tournaments, and then showing his wares for the Counties Manukau Steelers in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Nanai-Seturo had a slow start to the Steelers’ campaign due to a hamstring injury, but his pace and ability to evade tacklers with nifty footwork from either centre or fullback was clearly evident.

He will be able to add plenty, from either position, to a talented Chiefs back division.