Cory Jane will be eager to get his hands on the ball when the Hurricanes take on the Blues in Auckland on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
While the All Black has scored three tries this season, he's received far fewer attacking opportunities than teammate Julian Savea and other bigger wingers in the competition.
Jane's smaller stature (he weighs 91kg and stands 1.83m tall) means he isn't used at first receiver to get the ball over the advantage line, and his big strength – counter-attacking in space – has been negated by teams' reluctance to kick on him.
'If teams kick to me I'm going to drop it on purpose and then they'll start kicking it to me again so I can get a little more ball,' he joked.
Jane was guilty of trying too hard against the Chiefs last weekend and was often caught in two minds about whether to run or pass. Saturday's match provides him with a chance to make amends and spark his season back to life.
The table-topping Hurricanes will be disappointed if they don't come away with a bonus-point win against the 13th-placed Blues, who have been further depleted through injury.
James Parsons will become the third All Black to captain the Blues after injuries to Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua. He forms a new front row with Sam Prattley and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, while Joe Edwards moves to No 8, to fill the gap left by Luatua, with Brendon O’Connor moving to blindside flank and Blake Gibson at openside.
The Hurricanes have made five changes for the match. They will have a new front row in Chris Eves, Dan Cole and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, with Blade Thomson getting a start at openside flank. Rey Lee-Lo starts at outside centre in place of captain Conrad Smith, who is being rested. Lock Jeremy Thrush will lead the team on Saturday.
The Blues have won two of their last three matches, including last weekend's against the Vodacom Bulls, and will also take some confidence from the fact they have won their last two home matches against the Hurricanes (28-6 in 2013 and 37-24 in 2014).
But on Saturday the Blues will be up against a high-flying Canes team that has won 11 out of 12 matches, and an Eden Park upset is highly unlikely.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Blues 14, Hurricanes 9, Draw 1
In Auckland: Blues 8, Hurricanes 4
STATS AND FACTS
– The Blues are on a run of seven defeats against fellow New Zealand sides in Super Rugby, however five of these have come on the road.
– The Hurricanes have lost just once this season and have won their last five away games, a record run on the road for the Wellington-based side.
– On average, Hurricanes’ matches this season have seen an aggregate score of 46 points, with their matches going over 50 points on six occasions.
– The Canes average more tackles per game than any other team (135) while the Blues are the third-most tackled team (123).
– The Hurricanes boast two of Super Rugby’s top three try-scorers (TJ Perenara, seven, and Julian Savea, six) while no Blues player has managed more than three this season.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Blues||Beauden Barrett (110)||Melani Nanai, Jerome Kaino, George Moala (3)||Lolagi Visinia (748)||Brendon O'Connor (104)|
|Hurricanes||Ihaia West (96)||TJ Perenara (7)||Julian Savea (821)||Brad Shields (131)|
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Nic Mayhew, 19 Will Lloyd/Hayden Triggs, 20 Joe Edwards, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Matt Vaega.
Hurricanes – 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c ), 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Chris Eves.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Ben May, 18 Tolu Fahamokioa, 19 Mark Abbott/Callum Gibbins, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Willis Halaholo.
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keefe, Aki Aso
TMO: Aaron Paterson
Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images