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Four players promoted from Crusaders Academy as Scott Robertson names 2021 Crusaders squad

Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson has unveiled his 38-man squad for the 2021 Sky Super Rugby season and the club’s development pathway is highlighted, with all four new recruits having progressed through the Crusaders Academy. 

Chay Fihaki, Fletcher Newell, Isaiah Punivai and Tamaiti Williams joined the Academy in 2019 and all four players were part of the successful Canterbury Under 19 side that won the Jock Hobbs Memorial National U19 Tournament last year. They made their respective debuts for Canterbury in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup. 

“We have built a strong development programme here at the Crusaders and it’s always exciting to see players promoted from within our Academy system,” Robertson said. 

“With the core of our playing group returning next year, it was important we also look to the future and this group of players, at just 19 and 20 years old, have plenty of potential. All four of these young men have already been exposed to our environment through the Academy, they understand how we train as Crusaders and what is expected of them on and off the field. It’s this holistic approach to player development that gives us the confidence they’re ready to make the step up to Super Rugby.”

2019 New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year, Fletcher Newell, is joined by fellow Canterbury prop, Tamaiti Williams, as the two new forwards in the squad. Robertson said both have impressed with their physicality and Forwards Coach, Jason Ryan, will help to get the best out of them: “Tamaiti is growing his craft as a tighthead prop, and has a great point of difference. He’s a big man, with the ability to carry with the best of them, and he’ll be better for his experience in the Maori All Blacks camp this week as well.

“Fletcher Newell was a standout player during the Canterbury Under 19 campaign last season, and has an unrelenting work-rate. He’s a powerful scrummager, and broke the Crusaders Academy all-time squat record with a massive 255kg effort earlier this year. Both players have the chance to work with Jase Ryan in what is an experienced group of forwards, so we’re looking forward to seeing their progress in 2021,” he added. 

Isaiah Punivai and Chay Fihaki are also set to add their versatility to the Crusaders backline, following solid debut provincial seasons in red and black.   

“Isaiah is a quality young player, who brings immense physicality in the midfield and has the skillset to play multiple positions. Last year’s Under 19 Captain, we think he’s poised to make an important contribution on and off the field in 2021,” Robertson said. 

“Finally, our youngest player is utility back Chay Fihaki, who is only 19 and an incredibly skilful athlete. Chay has a massive boot and the ability to create something from nothing. He was recognised as Canterbury’s First Year Player of the Year at their team awards recently, and we’re really excited about his potential.” 

Scott Barrett will return to Captain the side next season, after being sidelined for Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2020 with a foot injury. He’ll assemble with the other Crusaders’ All Blacks in early February, while the bulk of the squad will assemble on January 11. 

The Crusaders first pre-season game is against the Highlanders in Temuka on February 12, before the team open their 2021 Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign against their southern neighbours, the Highlanders, in Dunedin on February 26. 

2021 Crusaders squad (caps)


Michael Alaalatoa (83)                                                          

Scott Barrett (C) (73)                                                             

Ethan Blackadder (10)                                                          

George Bower (23)                                                               

Tom Christie (11)                                                                  

Whetukamokamo Douglas (32)                                           

Mitchell Dunshea (22)                                                          

Cullen Grace (8)                                                                    

Sione Havili (9)                                                                      

Oliver Jager (26)                                                                   

Andrew Makalio (43)                                                             

Brodie McAlister (4)                                                               

Joe Moody (94)                                                                     

Fletcher Newell*                                                                    

Luke Romano (134)                                                              

Tom Sanders (19)                                                                 

Quinten Strange (32)                                                            

Codie Taylor (90)

Isileli Tuungafasi (10)

Samuel Whitelock (151)

Tamaiti Williams*



George Bridge (61)

Fergus Burke (1)

Brett Cameron (13)

Mitchell Drummond (93)

Ereatara Enari (8)

Braydon Ennor (35)

Leicester Fainga’anuku (12)

Chay Fihaki*

Jack Goodhue (57)

Bryn Hall (64)

David Havili (84)

Will Jordan (19)

Manasa Mataele (25)

Dallas McLeod (2)

Richie Mo’unga (69)

Isaiah Punivai*

Sevu Reece (27)

*denotes player named in the Crusaders Super Rugby squad for the first time