The Chiefs set plenty of tongues wagging when they released their striking Maori art-inspired jerseys for 2014, but their stunning jerseys didn’t quite reflect their performance on the field, with two early playoff exits that somewhat dented the dynasty the back-to-back 2012 and 2013 champions were hoping to create. They’ll be hoping to right the ship and get back to the final in 2016, and they’ll be doing so wearing a brand new shirt from Adidas.
The thing we loved about the 2014 Chiefs shirt, asides from the fact that it was incredibly striking and cool, of course, was that every bit of the shirt’s incredibly intricate design was carefully thought through, with each separate element coming together to tell a story that drew on the Maori heritage of the Waikato region, and the Chiefs themselves.
Unsurprisingly then, the 2016 jersey continues this trend. The most striking aspect of the shirt is the large yellow motif on the front of the design, which is based around the Whatanoa gateway – a carved archway in the corner of Waikato Stadium, through which fans pass to enter the Cheifs’ ground.
Throughout the jersey’s design there are several ‘taniwha‘ figures, designed to represent the contributing regions of the Chiefs franchise, namely Waikato, Thames Valley, Bay Of Plenty, Taranaki, King County and Counties Manukau. The swirling yellow pattern represents the Waikato river, in a similar way to last season’s design.
These ‘taniwha‘ (or chiefs) are placed throughout the shirt and alongside the river motif are designed to give life to the Waikato/Tainui saying ‘Waikato of many chiefs. At every bend of the river there is a chief’ (He piko he taniwha) – a phrase that’s also written on the inside of the collar.
The darker background elements of the design, namely the grey stepped patterns also have significance – apparently symbolising the upward journey to spiritual and mental wellbeing. Which is nice!
Unlike previous seasons, all five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have different main shirt sponsors this year, and while it does make the shirts feel a bit more distinct, it also has the potential to get in the way a bit. We think this is more of the latter – there’s nothing wrong with the Gallagher logo, but the shade of orange doesn’t quite work with the yellow, black and red of the incredibly intricate design. It’s a little thing, and an unavoidable one, but it still narks us a little
The Chiefs changed the Super Rugby jersey game back in 2014 with their stunning tribal design, and it’s no surprise to see them continuing that theme this time around. In truth, we don’t love this quite as much as the old one, but perhaps that’s because it could never have quite the same impact the second time around.
It’s still a hugely striking and unique design, however, and it’s also one that has real underlying meaning – it’s everything you can ask for in a clever modern jersey, and we don’t say that lightly.