2017 Team Preview: Hurricanes

cat_hurr16bThe Hurricanes finally put years of frustration behind them by winning their first Super Rugby title last year. Now they want to win it again.

LAST YEAR:
COMPETITION: CHAMPIONS
NZ CONFERENCE: FIRST PLACE

The Hurricanes will have eight home matches in 2017 as they look to defend their Investec Super Rugby title. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography

The Hurricanes will have eight home matches in 2017 as they look to defend their Investec Super Rugby title. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography

The Hurricanes beat the Chiefs 25–9 in the key semi-final before outclassing the gallant Lions 20–3 in the final. While Beauden Barrett single-handedly won crucial games with a series of dazzling performances, the Hurricanes’ success was due to a concerted effort from all the players and an outstanding coaching group led by Chris Boyd.

LUCK OF THE DRAW:
The Hurricanes begin in Tokyo against the Sunwolves before the first of eight home games this campaign. They finish with two home games against the Chiefs and Crusaders, which may well decide the 2017 finalists.

CAMPAIGN PREVIEW:
Head coach Chris Boyd is not getting carried away with being defending champions. Far from it in fact. His down-to-earth pragmatism and that of his captain Dane Coles augers well for their 2017 campaign. Boyd took plenty of learnings from last season and, despite the glorious finale, has found plenty to work on — particularly from two heavy defeats.

“There were things that are positive that you want to hang on to and things that you weren’t happy about you want to get out of your season. We had two games we were really bad in where we got thumped by the Brumbies and the Sharks. Those poor performances we want to get out of our repertoire. “It is important to find the momentum that we had at

the back end of the season in the early part of this season and continue on.” Boyd has kept most of last year’s champion squad with potential match-winners right across the playing group. He is delighted with how well the Hurricanes’ development programme is working.

“Clearly to pick up Jordie Barrett and Reed Prinsep from outside the area filled a couple of holes. But one of the things that has been highly satisfying for us is that we have 15 boys who have been though our training environment since November who are all locals and 21 or younger. So it is more the development rather the recruitment we are most happy about.”

The Hurricanes have some of the competition’s best attacking players in All Blacks Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ardie and Julian Savea and Nehe Milner Skudder.

They also form part of an impressive group of outstanding leaders. “We have a really experienced group of leaders sitting behind that group, like Brad Shields, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Reggie Goodes and Blade Thomson,” Boyd says. “The really encouraging thing is we have got another layer again of reallyyoung potentials.

“One of the things about last year was, sure, we had a number of key players playing well, but the young rookies and the not-so-fancied guys stood up and did an outstanding job for us. Guys like Loni Uhila, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita and Ricky Ricciteli stood up and we have an expectation now they are a year older that they will continue to make a contribution to the club.”

WHO’S NEW:
Forwards: Sam Lousi, Toa Halafihi, Reed Prinsep.
Backs: Kylem O’Donnell, Jordie Barrett, Ben Lam, Peter Umaga-Jensen.

WHO’S THROUGH:
Forwards: Hisa Sasagi, Motu Matu’u, James Blackwell, Christian Lloyd, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Tony Lamborn, Victor Vito.
Backs: Jamison Gibson-Park, James Marshall, TJ Va’a, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward.

LIKELY FINISH:
Hurricanes squads in the past have lacked the ability to win a Super Rugby title. Now that has been achieved there may be no stopping them, with them having arguably the strongest squad in the competition. The TAB has them favourites to retain their title, which they richly deserve.

HURRICANES SQUAD
Forwards: Chris Eves, Reggie Goodes, Ben May, Jeff Toomaga Allen, Loni Uhila, Mike Kainga, Dane Coles, Leni Apisai, Ricky Ricciteli, Mark Abbott, James Broadhurst, Geoff Cridge, Michael Fatialofa, Sam Lousi, Callum Gibbins, Vaea Fifita, Reed Prinsep, Hugh Renton, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson, Toa Halafihi.
Backs: TJ Perenara, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kylem O’Donnell, Beauden Barrett, Otere Black, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor, Pita Ahki, Wes Goosen, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Ben Lam, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Jordie Barrett

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