Cape Town – Lock Scott Barrett will captain the Crusaders in Sam Whitelock’s absence next year.
According to the Stuff website, the 25-year-old beat out other candidates, including hooker Codie Taylor, centre Jack Goodhue and loose forward Whetukamokamo Douglas, who all carried the vice-captaincy tag during the Crusaders’ victorious 2019 campaign.
Fullback David Havili, who recently captained Tasman to their inaugural national provincial crown, was another potential option to lead the side.
But coach Scott Robertson has entrusted Barrett to take over from Whitelock, who will skip next year’s Super Rugby campaign to take up a short-term contract in Japan. He is contracted to New Zealand Rugby through to 2023 and is expected back at the Crusaders in 2021.
Robertson and his coaching staff weren’t at the team’s Rugby Park headquarters on Tuesday morning, when media were provided with the 38-man squad for the 2020 season but, in a statement, said Barrett was the right man for the job.
“Scott has a phenomenal work ethic, and produces consistent performances for the Crusaders,” Robertson said.
“He’s well respected by his team-mates, as well as the coaching and management group, has great character and helps drive our team culture. So we see him as a natural fit to captain the side and congratulate Scooter on this exciting opportunity.”
Barrett was named Crusader of the year after they completed a three-peat under Whitelock in July, and now has a chance to captain the red and blacks to an unprecedented fourth Super Rugby title on the bounce, and record extending 11th overall.
He’ll be in charge of a squad stripped of ample experience, given long-time Crusaders Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Ryan Crotty, Tim Bateman, Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua have moved on.
There are 12 newly contracted players in the 38-man squad, including All Blacks wing Sevu Reece, props George Bower and Isi Tuungafasi, and hooker Brodie McAlister. All played for the Crusaders in some capacity this year, but weren’t named in the initial squad.
The uncapped names in the squad are highlighted by openside flanks Sione Havili (Tasman), who is no relation to fullback David Havili, and Tom Christie (Canterbury), while Canterbury and New Zealand under-20s representative Fergus Burke replaces Mitch Hunt (Highlanders) as the third flyhalf in the squad.
North Harbour lock Ethan Roots, Canterbury loose forward/lock Cullen Grace, Tasman utility back Fetuli Paea and Canterbury midfielders Dallas McLeod and Inga Finau are the other new caps.
“Ethan Roots is a strong, abrasive loose forward/lock option for us, who had a brilliant Mitre 10 Cup season for North Harbour,” Robertson said in a statement.
“We’re excited to unlock the potential in this promising East Coast Bays club representative.”
The retention of wing Manasa Mataele, who busted his knee against the Hurricanes in round two shortly after producing arguably the off-load of the entire season, will make for a heated battle for the outside back spots.
Not including Braydon Ennor, who is likely to form a new-look midfield with Jack Goodhue, Robertson will have George Bridge, Reece, David Havili, Will Jordan, Mataele and Leicester Faingaanuku to pick from.
With Ronan O’Gara and Brad Mooar gone, the Crusaders are still in the process of adding a fifth coach to join Robertson, forwards coach Jason Ryan, new assistant Scott Hansen and Andrew Goodman.
Hansen, who worked as Japan’s defence coach at the World Cup, has taken over Mooar’s portfolio, working with the inside backs, and taking charge of the team’s attack, strategy and game planning.
Tasman coach Goodman, who assisted with team defence and individual technical development this year, has taken over from O’Gara, who worked with the backs the past two years but has returned to France to coach La Rochelle.
The Crusaders, of course, could be forced into a late reshuffle if Robertson is named All Blacks head coach next month.
In the meantime, the red and blacks, minus their All Blacks, who won’t be on deck until January, will commence pre-season training in Christchurch on November 28.
Crusaders 2020 Super Rugby squad:
Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, Scott Barrett (captain), Ethan Blackadder, George Bower, Tom Christie, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Dunshea, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Sione Havili, Oliver Jager, Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister, Joe Moody, Luke Romano, Ethan Roots, Tom Sanders, Quinten Strange, Codie Taylor, Isi Tuungafasi
George Bridge, Fergus Burke, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Ere Enari, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Inga Finau, Jack Goodhue, Bryn Hall, David Havili, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele, Dallas McLeod, Richie Mo’unga, Fetuli Paea, Sevu Reece
Sevu Reece, Dallas McLeod, Tom Christie, George Bower, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili, Brodie McAlister, Ethan Roots, Isi Tuungafasi, Fergus Burke, Inga Finau, Fetuli Paea
Tim Bateman (retired), Ryan Crotty (Japan), Israel Dagg (retired), Owen Franks (UK), Ben Funnell (Japan), Mitchell Hunt (Highlanders), Tim Perry, Ngane Punivai (Highlanders), Kieran Read (Japan), Jordan Taufua (UK), Matt Todd (Japan), Sam Whitelock (Japan sabbatical)