Eight All Blacks will be rested for the opening round of Vodacom Super Rugby.
The players can be rested at any time during the tournament, with the Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs opting to do it for the first time in the opening round starting on 13 February, which sees the Blues host the Chiefs and the Crusaders at home to the Reds. The Highlanders (who have a bye first up) and Hurricanes (who head to South Africa) will rest their All Blacks later in the season.
Players who will miss round one include Blues hooker Keven Mealamu and lock Patrick Tuipulotu; Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick, loose forward Liam Messam and flyhalf Aaron Cruden; as well as Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock, No 8 Kieran Read and fullback Israel Dagg.
Whitelock and Read won't return to the Crusaders until round five after exercising their mini-sabbatical clauses.
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