The Hurricanes will hope that the presence of All Blacks loose-forward Ardie Savea will help the team find more consistency during Vodacom Super Rugby Aotearoa, writes DYLAN JACK.
Savea has returned to the squad after recovering from a knee injury suffered during the 2019 World Cup semi-final loss to England which had ruled him out for up to six months.
The 26-year-old was in incredible form for both club and country last year and the Hurricanes will hope that he can pick up where he left off.
Despite the fact that Savea has mostly been utilised as an openside flank, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland says the All Black could be used more often at the back of the scrum for his side.
‘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.’
Traditionally, the Hurricanes are better known for their flair than their grunt, but with Savea’s return boast a pack that could go toe to toe with any of their rivals.
Other than Savea, the Hurricanes have plenty of depth at loose forward with another All Black in Vaea Fifita as well as Gareth Evans, Reed Prinsep and one of 2020’s most impressive young flanks in 23-year-old Du’Plessis Kirifi.
This is not to say that the Hurricanes will be lacking a counter-attacking threat in their backline. Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam and Wes Goosen were all playing excellently before the season was suspended, while South African wing Kobus van Wyk also made his mark with a hat-trick on debut against the Sunwolves.
However, there are a few issues that Holland would want to see rectified during this domestic season.
A primary concern will be the team’s on-field discipline. This let them down during their only two losses against the Stormers and Blues. In both games, the Hurricanes were shown two yellow cards at crucial stages of the contest and also conceded more penalties than their opponents.
Given their personnel, the Hurricanes would also want to be more clinical on attack, having only collected one try-scoring bonus point – against the Sunwolves.
A final area of concern will be the team’s depth at flyhalf. With Beauden Barrett having departed to the Blues, the Hurricanes are the only team without an All Blacks flyhalf in their squad. Both Jackson Garden-Bachop and Fletcher Smith have shown themselves to be dependable options at No 10, but the lack of world-class options in this department could count against the Hurricanes this season.
The Hurricanes will be eyeing revenge in their first match of the season against the Blues at Eden Park after suffering a stunning defeat by their opponents in Wellington earlier this year. Their start won’t get any easier as they then host the Crusaders before travelling to take on the Chiefs.
14 June: vs Blues, Eden Park
21 June: vs Crusaders, Sky Stadium
5 July: vs Chiefs, FMG Stadium Waikato
12 July: vs Highlanders, Sky Stadium
18 July: vs Blues, Sky Stadium
25 July: vs Crusaders, Orangetheory Stadium
8 August: vs Chiefs, Sky Stadium
15 August: vs Highlanders, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Hurricanes squad: 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, 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.
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images