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Meet the Highlanders class of 2019

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Sunday, December 16, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Folau Fakatava
DOB: 16/12/99
Position: Halfback
Mitre 10 Cup team: Hawke’s Bay 
The scoop: Folau Fakatava is a name for the future. The dynamic halfback was a superstar at schoolboy level for Hastings Boys High School in 2017 and made the transition to Mitre 10 Cup level look easy with an outstanding season for Hawkes Bay in 2018. Similar in stature and skillset to Highlanders incumbent Aaron Smith, Fakatava will benefit greatly from playing and training alongside the All Blacks great. 

QUICK TAP: MEET THE CRUSADERS 2019 ROOKIES 

Ayden Johnstone
DOB: 24/10/96
Position: Prop
Mitre 10 Cup team: Waikato
The scoop: Immensely powerful and hard-working, 22-year-old prop Ayden Johnstone will provide a big boost to the Highlanders propping stocks for the 2019 season. A former New Zealand Under 20s star, Johnstone has improved steadily across three Mitre 10 Cup seasons for Waikato and has built a reputation as a strong scrummager and tireless worker around the park.

Marino Mikaele Tu’u
DOB: 06/11/97
Position: Loose forward
Mitre 10 Cup team: Hawke’s Bay
The scoop: In a similar mould to established Highlanders Shannon Frizell, Liam Squire and Jackson Hemopo, Marino Mikaele Tu’u is a dynamic running and hard tackling loose forward. Mikaele Tu’u made a big impression for the Highlanders as an injury replacement for five games in 2018 and continued his strong form with Hawke’s Bay in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Josh Iosefa-Scott
DOB: 16/07/96
Position: Prop
Mitre 10 Cup team: Waikato
The scoop: There are not many more physically imposing props than Josh Iosefa-Scott running around in Super Rugby. At 1.94cm and 134kg, Iosefa-Scott is a giant among the giants of the front row. The powerful 22-year-old tighthead prop has impressed across three seasons for Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup and will be eager to test his skills at Super Rugby level.

Ray Niuia
DOB: 16/06/91
Position: Hooker
Mitre 10 Cup team: Tasman
The scoop: A move to Tasman for the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season has paid dividends for hooker Ray Niuia. The former North Harbour representative impressed across 11 appearances for the Mako in 2018 and has been rewarded with his first Super Rugby contract. Noted for his core-strength, Niuia is a solid force at scrum time and an accurate lineout thrower. With plenty of experience on the Mitre 10 Cup stage behind him, Niuia will be ready to slot straight in and do a job for the Highlanders.
Jack Whetton
DOB: 24/05/92
Position: Lock
Mitre 10 Cup team: Auckland
The scoop: Son of All Blacks legend Gary Whetton, it has been a long road for Jack Whetton to pick up his first New Zealand Super Rugby contract. First catching the eye for Northland at domestic level in 2012, Whetton has since spent five years playing at the top level in the UK and even made six appearances for the Brumbies in 2014. Almost a forgotten name in New Zealand, Whetton returned to his roots in 2018 and helped Auckland to their first Mitre 10 Cup title in over 10 years. Big, physical and seasoned, Whetton will provide a big boost to the Highlanders locking stocks in 2019.

Sef Fa’agase

DOB: 05/03/91
Position: Prop
Mitre 10 Cup team: Canterbury
The scoop: Sef Fa’agase maybe a newcomer to New Zealand’s Super Rugby scene but he has no shortage of experience with 43 appearances for the Reds. A powerful scrummager and proven performer, Fa’agase will be a welcome addition to the Highlanders propping stocks. The 27-year-old tighthead prop moved to New Zealand to play for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup and couldn’t be denied a Super Rugby contract such was his strong form.