The 2016 Super Rugby season will see 33 New Zealand-based players make their debut including 11 who were part of this year's World Champion New Zealand U20 side.
A total of 195 players have been confirmed as contracted members of one of the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams which includes 46 players receiving full-time contracts for the first time.
The Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders have today announced their finalised full-contracted and Wider Training Group squads.
New Zealand General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said he was excited by the talent within the squads.
“Today’s Super Rugby announcements come at a particularly thrilling time of year for rugby. As everyone’s eyes are on our national team up ‘north’, it’s important to note that all of the guys who are in that team are our stars of Super Rugby and their performances highlight how critical this competition is.
“What’s also really exciting to see this year is the bounty of youth in the squads. Of all the debutants, 11 players were in this year’s winning New Zealand U20 side. The fact they have picked up Super Rugby contracts at a young age is just fantastic.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them performing out on the field - not only in the coming season, but in the years ahead. As we witness the retirement of some of New Zealand's finest ever players, I’m sure we will see many future legends of New Zealand rugby emerge.
“In addition, a number of players have picked up their first contracts after standout form in the ITM Cup.”
The 2016 squad lists see the return of 22 Rugby World Cup 2015 All Blacks including Kieran Reid (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Victor Vito (Hurricanes) and Ben Smith (Highlanders).
The season gets under way on Friday 26 February as 2015 champions the Highlanders go up against the Blues in Auckland before the Brumbies host the Hurricanes to cap an enormous opening night involving three of last year's four semi-finalists. The Crusaders take on the Chiefs at home the following night in the second all-New Zealand derby of the opening weekend.
With the exception of All Blacks currently at Rugby World Cup 2015, most Super Rugby players are now officially on leave with the majority returning for training in late November.
Super Rugby debutants will attend a one-day induction with New Zealand Rugby in late November.