TEAM PREVIEW: The Hurricanes

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Savea was in red-hot form in 2019 before a knee injury in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup semifinal loss to England saw him ruled out of action for 5-6 months.

 

While mostly recognised as a number seven, Savea showed his class at both blindside flanker and No.8 for the All Blacks in 2019 to provide a welcome selection headache for coach Jason Holland.

 

With Du’Plessis Kirifi in strong form in the seven jersey before the Investec Super Rugby season was cut short due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and Vaea Fifita and Gareth Evans more than capable at blindside flanker, coach Jason Holland has hinted that we may see Savea at the back of the scrum during the New Zealand-only competition.

 

"Personally, I'm a big fan of Ardie as an eight," Holland said. "I think it suits his game, he can get his hands on the ball a lot more, being the massive carrier he is.”

 

Loose forward has long been an area strength for the Hurricanes and Savea’s return gives the team from the capital one of the most potent combinations in the competition. Another area that is looking strong for the Hurricanes is somewhat more surprising – the front row.

Only on very rare occasions in their history would you say the Hurricanes were a dominant force up front, but they enter Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa with a host of top-quality front rowers at their disposal.

 

At hooker, there are not many sides in the world who have more depth than the Hurricanes who have Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli and Asafo Aumua all desperate to start in the two jersey.

 

At prop, talented youngsters Xavier Numia and Alex Fidow have turned heads over the last 12 months with their strong scrummaging and dominant ball running.

 

Add in one-Test All Black Tyrel Lomax, the vast experience of 37-year-old Ben May, and emerging youngsters Fraser Armstrong and Pouri Rakete-Stones, and the Hurricanes have arguably the most complete front row unit in the competition.

 

The Hurricanes have been known for their expansive back play and dazzling counter attacking ability during their 25 year history and expect no different this year with Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam and Wes Goosen all capable of creating breath-taking offensive moments.

 

The elephant in the room for the Hurricanes is at first five-eighth. The Hurricanes are the only team in the competition who do not boast an All Black in the 10 jersey. That fact alone might add a dollar or two onto their odds to win the competition at the TAB but in Jackson Garden-Bachop and Fletcher Smith they do have two very dependable options in the pivot role. With guidance from assistant coach Carlos Spencer (a player who led the Blues to three titles at first five-eighth) Hurricanes fans may have no reason to worry.

THE SCOOP

Memories of the Hurricanes 15-24 loss to the Blues at Sky Stadium in March will loom large before their opening Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Blues at Eden Park this Sunday. Add to the mix the potential Blues debut of former Hurricanes stalwart Beauden Barrett and the stage is set for a cracking round one clash. With defending champions the Crusaders lying in wait for the Hurricanes in week two, coach Jason Holland will be calling on his side to come flying out of the blocks against the Blues at Eden Park.

 

FIXTURES

 

14 June: Hurricanes v Blues, Eden Park

21 June: Hurricanes v Crusaders, Sky Stadium

5 July: Hurricanes v Chiefs, FMG Stadium Waikato

12 July: Hurricanes v Highlanders, Sky Stadium

18 July: Hurricanes v Blues, Sky Stadium

25 July: Hurricanes v Crusaders, Orangetheory Stadium

8 August: Hurricanes v Chiefs, Sky Stadium

15 August: Hurricanes v Highlanders, Forsyth Barr Stadium

 

Hurricanes squad:

Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Ricky Riccitelli, Fraser Armstrong, Alex Fidow, Tyrel Lomax, Ben May, Xavier Numia, Pouri Rakete-Stones, James Blackwell, Devan Flanders, Kane Leaupepe (currently injured), Tevita Mafileo, Liam Mitchell, Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leaware, Gareth Evans, Vaea Fifita, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Murphy Taramai

 

Backs: Jamie Booth, TJ Perenara, Jonathan Taumateine, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Fletcher Smith, Vince Aso, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Jonah Lowe, Billy Proctor, Danny Toala, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Kobus van Wyk, Wes Goosen, Ben Lam, Salesi Rayasi, Chase Tiatia

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