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Perenara surprised at call-up

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Sportal.co.nz     08 Mar 2012     Getty Images

The 19-year-old has made a good impact off the bench in the Hurricanes' matches against the Stormers and Lions in South Africa and got the nod ahead of Chris Eaton.

Young prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen has also been handed his first start at tighthead prop, while Julian Savea replaces the injured Alapati Leiua on the wing. Prop Michael Bent comes on to the bench.

"Week in week out you're fighting for a spot and when I got named in the starting team I was surprised because of the quality player that Chris is," said Perenara.

"To be honest in that first game I thought I wasn't relaxed enough and I thought I could have played a lot better.

"My performance against the Lions was a step up from my performance against the Stormers. But Chris has been playing well and he's a quality player."

Perenara's elevation has perhaps come quicker than it might have had Chris Smylie not been ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

But he has grasped his opportunity well. "I know I'm not experienced but the way I've been brought up, if you don't shoot as high as you want straight away then there's no point doing it," the Wellington No.9 said.

"For me I've always wanted to start but because I haven't been starting it's come around quite quick."

The Mana College product is the youngest member of the Hurricanes squad but, alongside first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, has no qualms in telling his more experienced team-mates what needs to be done on the pitch

"Off the field we both keep quite quiet around the boys," said Perenara. "We still know our place. We are the young guys.

"But on the field we know that for the benefit of the team we do need to have our voice out there. We're more than comfortable talking out there."

The culture being created in the 2012 version of the Hurricanes has also helped ease Perenara's transition into Super Rugby.

"It's different for me coming into an environment where I'm not as comfortable speaking up outside of footy," he explained. "All these guys have been here and they are experienced.

"In this environment I've really been welcomed in. The thing we live by is that everyone is equal. No matter how old you are, no matter how many games you've played if you've got something to say and you think it is right for the team then you say it.

"That's really helped me come into the team and feel part of things."

Coach Mark Hammett has had no qualms selected Perenara and Toomaga-Allen for their starting debuts.

"The young guys coming off the bench have taken their chances," he said. "Jeff Allen has got that position on form. TJ similarly is in on form. We're pretty happy that they are getting a run."

Hammett also revealed that Savea would have played this Friday even if Leiua had not been injured.

The winger suffered a hamstring strain in the victory over the Lions and has returned to New Zealand for treatment.

"Jules sustained a shoulder injury in the Crusaders [pre-season] game and it probably didn't repair as quickly as we initially thought," the coach said.

"While he might have been okay for some of the games in Africa it was a bit more risky. Now he's at 100 percent and he's pretty excited to get going."

Hurricanes: 1. Ben May, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Jason Eaton, 6. Faifili Levave, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Victor Vito, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Tim Bateman, 13. Conrad Smith (c), 14. Cory Jane, 15. Andre Taylor.
Replacements: 16. Motu Matu’u, 17. Michael Bent, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Brad Shields, 20. Chris Eaton, 21. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22. Charlie Ngatai.