Hurricanes ready for ‘high tempo’ Highlanders

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Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said, "You know when you play the Highlanders they're going to have a bit going on in attack, and they have a real mindset around winning the game on winning momentum."

 

Halfback Aaron Smith was able to get in and clear the ball quickly, and the Hurricanes needed to be able to stop that while also ensuring they applied pressure when they attacked, he said.

 

"They're a tough side, they love playing under the roof and they love trying to play with tempo so it's going to be a cracker, I think," he said.

 

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles returns to the side for the first time in 2021, and Holland said they were all looking forward to the energy he would bring to the side.

 

Coles' experience would help turn some of the cogs that had not worked properly for the side. There weren't too many of them, but they were crucial cogs, he said.

 

"There hasn't been any major overhauls in anything we are doing, we just need to make sure the simple parts of the game are done well for 80 minutes."

Utility back Ruben Love is in line to make his debut from the bench. He had worked hard in the pre-season and become more comfortable in the team environment since signing last year.

 

"He's an understanding of how we play and what we do and, hopefully, he can bring his little flavour off the bench and give us something a little different.

 

"He's a talented young kid who can play anywhere in the backline, and at the moment we see him as an outside back who can cover 10 [first five-eighths]. Who knows where that will end up, but for the moment that's where we see him," he said.

 

Lock Scott Scrafton had made a faster than expected recovery from an ankle injury to play, while James Blackwell was not starting. That reflected the competition within the squad in the locking role and, also in the back three, where wing Julian Savea makes way for Wes Goosen.

 

"Guys need opportunities, and if we stay with the same group the whole time regardless of their performance then I don't know how much we push each other," he said, adding that they didn't lose too much whoever played.

 

Holland confirmed that first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop's season was over, and he would be out for nine months. He would be having surgery on his Achilles tendon next week.

 

His replacement Orbyn Leger had performed well last week in stepping into the role, Holland said.

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