"New Zealand's Rebel Sport Super 14 jerseys have received another tweak - though the latest changes from newly-recommitted sponsor adidas should meet with fan approval.
The official jerseys for the five Super 14 franchises were unveiled today at a sparkling launch function at Auckland's viaduct.
The main change sees each of the franchises now supplied with an official "away" jersey that will be worn for all matches on the road during the competition which kicks off on February 13.
That's a change from seasons previous, when "away" colours were only brought out when there was a jersey clash.
Plus each of the jerseys, as well as featuring the latest generation of "ForMotion" technology, also now displays a motif on it that is symbolic of the franchise (or, as the press release puts it, "uniquely characterises the roots of the region".)
Some of these motifs are subtle and some not so, such as the large sword that now runs down the front of the Crusaders jersey -- and will no doubt have fans in Title Town in a lather.
The Blues have a distinctive outline of Rangitoto now resplendent on their playing top, while the motifs embossed on the Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes jersey have been rather more subdued.
The choice of colours in the away strips has been interesting. The Chiefs have stayed with the traditional white, while the Hurricanes and Crusaders have gone with the grey look - not particularly auspicious for those All Black fans who recall last year's World Cup quarterfinal.
The Highlanders have opted for a strong Southland theme in their away jersey, the home blue and gold being replaced by a distinctive Southland maroon.
The Blues, meanwhile, have undergone arguably the most visible jersey change with a significant makeover. The main jersey now incorporates two quite different shades of the core colour, with the notable introduction of a lighter Cambridge blue (possibly in deference to their northernmost provincial partner).
The Blues away jersey also features strong use of the core colour, with white panels down the side and on the low part of the arms.
As ever, sponsor adidas, which last week announced a surprise extension of its partnership with the NZRU through until 2019, has provided New Zealand's Super 14 players with the latest technology available.
"The new jersey contains the latest version of our product technology, ForMotion, that allows the jersey to move naturally with a player's body," said adidas NZ managing director Greig Bramwell.
He said with the Super 14 being played principally over warmer months fabric has been kept as light as possible.
"The combination of the latest product technology, high quality fabric and some great cosmetic changes has resulted in a high-performance, great looking jersey," added Bramwell.
The changes were met with general approval by players modelling the new home and away strips at the launch.
Given that most were young players still looking to make their mark on the competition, they were more than happy just to be in a Super 14 jersey of any description.
But the new looks definitely met with their vote of approval.
"We've gone to grey, and I think it's a good concept they've brought in - wearing this for every away game," said young Hurricanes wing Zac Guildford. "It's something different from previous years, a bit like soccer.
"But we're excited to be wearing the new jerseys and just looking forward to the start of the season."
New Blues five-eighth Michael Hobbs felt the distinctive outline of Rangitoto island was "symbolic" and even though the draft player is still very much a Wellington player at heart he's more than happy to don the new jersey for his first taste of Super 14 action.
Likewise rookie Blues forward Charlie Faumuina. "It's just a great opportunity for guys like us to get out there for our first year and see what the Super 14's like," he said.
The strong Southland influence in the Highlanders away jersey certainly met with the vote of approval from Kendrick Lynn, one of eight Stags who have made the squad for 2009.
"I feel really comfortable on this - it feels really good actually," said the Southland back. "The boys from the Stags are all pretty excited about wearing the maroon."
His Highlanders team-mate liked the Scottish shield and swords embossed on the front panel of the jerseys, though noted that there was going to be a lot of hard work needed for a franchise that has an eclectic mix of players.
As always, flash new jerseys are one thing, but doing them justice on the playing field another altogether."
What do you think of the compulsory away strip for all teams? I don't see the point frankly - especially since the Hurricanes would never face another team with a yellow jersey (only other yellow one is the Force away so doesn't matter)...just commercial I guess...