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Hurricanes

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes could not have asked for a better start to the Super Rugby season, managing 6 wins from as many outings. They are in pole position on the combined standings and are expecting to improve even more as their rested players return.

“The boys are enjoying themselves because winning is way better than losing,” Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree told the NZME.

“But every week there’s something to fix and every week’s not perfect and we are looking to improve the whole time.”

Their defence has been the cornerstone of their success, with only 82 points being scored against them so far, 2nd to the Brumbies who have conceded a mere 80.

Their next challenge comes in the form of the Stormers who were beaten 39 / 21 by the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday. However Plumtree acknowledges the physical threat posed by the Cape outfit, boosted by their very own return of some key players.

“They’ll be hurting after what happened last week,” Plumtree said. “So we’ll be expecting them to respond pretty positively in terms of intensity.”

The Stormers may welcome back a couple of players, namely Duane Vermeulen, and Plumtree said they would bring the physicality associated with any South African team.

“We’ll have to really step up in the pack.”

The Hurricanes rested a number of All Blacks – Beauden Barrett, Ben Franks and Julian Savea – for last week’s game with the Melbourne Rebels but they will likely return this week. Hooker Dane Coles (elbow) also missed the win over the Rebels but is fit again.

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TJ Perenara

TJ Perenara

All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara will play his 50th match for the Hurricanes when they face the Rebels in Wellington on Friday.

Perenara made his debut for the ‘Canes against the Stormers in 2012, and has since racked up 105 points for the franchise by way of 21 tries.

The 23-year-old will pair with James Marshall this weekend in what will be the 1st start for the halfback combination, with coach Chris Boyd opting to rest Beauden Barrett.

Also taking a break this week is prop Ben Franks, along with wing Julian Savea, which has allowed Boyd to shuffle his back 3.

Matt Proctor comes in for Savea, while Jason Woodward has been given another start at fullback. Manawatu flyhalf Otere Black will also get his 1st chance for the Hurricanes, should he come off the bench.

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Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea

Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea will be sidelined for up to 6 weeks after dislocating his finger in Friday’s 20 / 13 win over the Highlanders.

Hurricanes assistant coach Clark Laidlaw said 21-year-old Savea had an operation on Saturday, and would be out for between 3 to 6 weeks.

“He dislocated his finger and it popped out the side, so he had to get it pushed back in and tidied up,” Laidlaw said on Monday.

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Super RugbyThe Emirates Lions won their 2nd tour match as the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks had to dig deep to win at home in an interesting 6th Round of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The men from Johannesburg weathered an early storm and clinched their 3rd successive win over the Melbourne Rebels, by 20 / 16, courtesy of a late try by Lionel Mapoe on Friday in Melbourne. With this victory, the Emirates Lions emulated their feats in 2007 and 2011, when they also won 2 tour matches.

On Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs started well and were in front at the break against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but the home team took proper advantage of 2 second-half Yellow Cards against the visitors from Bloemfontein to win comfortably by 57 / 14.

2 Matches were played in South Africa on Saturday afternoon, both in less-than-perfect conditions.

First up, the Vodacom Bulls had to rely on a late penalty goal by Handré Pollard to pip the Force by 25 / 24 in Pretoria before the Cell C Sharks, playing for more than 50 minutes with 13 men against 14, following 3 Red Cards, had to dig deep to beat the Chiefs by 12 / 11 in Durban.

The DHL Stormers had a BYE.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders have named Dan Pryor on the openside flank for their Super Rugby derby showdown with the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday.

Pryor returns from injury to take the place of Shane Christie, who was forced to withdraw from the starting 15 during last Saturday’s warm-up at the venue.

His replacement in that victory over the Waratahs, John Hardie, misses out due to injury so Gareth Evans is the Highlanders’ back-row option on the bench.

Prop Daniel Leniert-Brown will potentially make his Super Rugby debut from the bench while the starting backline is unchanged from last weekend’s triumph.

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes will be without hooker Dane Coles for Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders but 2 other All Blacks return to the starting 15.

Coles was originally named in the starting for 15 for the game in Dunedin but was withdrawn as a precaution, following Wednesday’s training session with a hyper-extended elbow.

He has been replaced in the run-on side by Motu Matu’u, with Brayden Mitchell coming onto the bench.

There are 3 other changes to the team that beat the Blues last week.

Jeremy Thrush comes back into the starting line-up and will pair with Blade Thomson in what will be his 1st start at lock for 2015, while Cory Jane replaces Matt Proctor on the right wing.

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James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from James Broadhurst of the Hurricanes for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Broadhurst has been suspended from all forms of the game for 1 week up to and including 20 March 2015.

The incident occurred in the 61st minute of the match between the Hurricanes and Blues played at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North on 13 March 2015.

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James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst of the Hurricanes has been cited for alleged foul play during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Broadhurst is alleged to have contravened 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, in an incident which occurred in the 61st minute of the Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and Blues at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North on 13 March 2015.

Upon further review of the match footage, the Citing Commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the Red Card threshold for foul play.

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Vodacom BullsThe Vodacom Bulls lost their 2nd successive home match when the Hurricanes caused a minor upset by winning 17 / 13 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.

The last time the 3-time champions lost consecutive matches at home was in Rounds 2 and 3 in 2008. Incidentally, that was also the last year the Hurricanes won in Pretoria before this weekend.

The home team could not get into gear and were heavily penalised by referee Andre Lees. These and other errors proved very costly in the end.

Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard scored all the Vodacom Bulls’ points through a try, conversion and 2 penalty goals.

In the aftermath to the match, the Bulls and Hurricanes Press Conferences were a sight to behold!

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, wide-eyed as ever, seemed more strained than usual and once again underlined what he perceived as positives to be taken from the game. Captain Pierre Spies could not hide the shame and it appeared that he was deliberately looking down to avoid eye-contact with menbers of the Media.

On the other hand, Hurricanes Coach Chris Boys was in a juvial mode, making an early joke during the Press Conference, yet also stating that although they achieved to come “take Points” in South Africa, that he was not yet satisfied and felt that the Hurricans should improve.

 

Here are the Audio streams of the After Match Press Conferences:

Bulls after match Press Conference:

 

Hurricanes after match Press Conference:

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Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

All Black Ma’a Nonu is back at centre for the Hurricanes as they prepare to face the Bulls in a Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Nonu missed the Hurricanes’ 22 / 8 win over the Lions in Johannesburg last

weekend to attend the birth of his child, but has slotted into the starting fifteen this week.

It will be Nonu’s 145th Super Rugby appearance, and 1st for the Hurricanes since 2011.

The match will also be a significant occasion for Manawatu flank Callum Gibbins, who is set to get his 1st start for the Hurricanes.

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HurricanesAll fit and available All Blacks in the Hurricanes’ squad are set to suit up against the Lions in Round 1 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

A calf injury has ended Jeremy Thrush’s hopes of getting his season underway this week however, with the lock returning to New Zealand on Wednesday. He is expected to be available for selection in 4 to 6 weeks, depending on his recovery.

Thrush’s injury has made way for Mark Abbott to grab a starting spot, while his Hawke’s Bay teammate, Geoff Cridge, has flown over to join the team in Johannesburg.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions Head Coach Johan Ackermann has announced his 23-man side to take on the Hurricanes in the Southern African season opener at Emirates Park on Friday evening.

Ackermann has combined both a boost of youth and experience in his side.

The match will get under way at 19:10 SA Time on Friday 13 February at Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg.

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John Schwalger

John Schwalger

Hurricanes prop John Schwalger, nephew of Mahonri Schwalger, has sustained further blood clots on his lungs and has been ruled out for a majority of the Super Rugby campaign.

The All Black first suffered the ailment, originally believed to be a chest infection, last year and played only 6 games for the Hurricanes.

He also skipped Wellington’s dismal NPC campaign.

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Chris Boyd

Chris Boyd

Unlike other New Zealand franchises the Hurricanes will not rest their All Blacks back for the opening Rounds of Super Rugby.

New Zealand Rugby Union have given them dispensation over the other 4 New Zealand sides due to their demanding opening schedule, in which they play two matches in South Africa and one in Australia.

Coach Chris Boyd said it just means they will give their All Blacks an opportunity to rest later in the competition.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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CrusadersThe Pacific Islands may yet get a taste of Super Rugby, with the Crusaders considering shifting their home match against the Hurricanes to Fiji next year.

The Fiji Village website reported that planning was underway for the seven-time Super Rugby champions to play the Hurricanes in Suva after a sponsor came forward to underwrite the move.

A Crusaders spokesman could not confirm the switch Thursday, saying there were a number of options under consideration with their usual second-choice home venues of Nelson and Timaru also in the mix.

“It’s too soon to comment on what may go ahead,” she said.

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Super RugbyIn preparation for Super Rugby in 2015, all 5 New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the tournament.

In the meantime, South African franchises will ponder about their squads and in December we at Rugby-Talk.com will speculate what the South African franchises will look like, as final squads will only be known in January 2015.

The same happens every year, New Zealand and Australia get their ducks in a row before the December break, whereas the South Africans seem to focus on December holidays, going to the beach, having Christmas and generally geting fat and lazy.

When can we ever expect the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Super Rugby franchises to ever catch up to the more professional attitudes displayed primarily by New Zealand… but also closely followed by their Antipodion counterparts, Australia?

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Clark Laidlaw

STAYING ON: Clark Laidlaw will join the Hurricanes coaching staff in a fulltime role in 2015

Clark Laidlaw helped shore up the Hurricanes’ defence this season and he’ll get a chance to further improve the side under new coach Chris Boyd.

Laidlaw will join Boyd and his assistant John Plumtree in the third official appointment to the 2015 coaching staff.

The former Scottish Commonwealth Games sevens representative came to the Hurricanes via Taranaki in 2013 as an in-season skills coach before taking up the task of fixing the leaky defensive line this season.

Laidlaw had immediate success with the Hurricanes keeping their try line intact on two occasions, something they hadn’t managed over the opening three years of head coach Mark Hammett’s tenure, and also conceding fewer points per match than in the previous season.

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New Zealand Conference
For those who might have watched the episode of Boots & All on Thursday 17 July, you might have heard John Mitchell refer to an article he read surrounding the New Zealand teams and conference.

Rugby-Talk exclusively brings you the article in question, and we must agree with John, it does make for some interesting reading.

Just how level are the current playing fields in Super Rugby, if all sides don’t face the same opposition, and what are the possible consequences thereof on the final standings?

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Mark Hammett

Embattled Hurricane coach, Mark Hammett

As he prepares to leave the Hurricanes, coach Mark Hammett gave a parting shot by claiming that the Hurricanes were in a state of disarray when he took over the coaching reins ahead of the 2011 season.

Hammett, who is heading overseas to coach Welsh club Cardiff, is in the final stages of his four-year tenure with the Hurricanes after they were left in seventh place, one point outside of the playoffs, following the final round of Super Rugby.

Seventh was the best finish Hammett led the side to during his time in charge but his first season was a rescue mission as he moved on some senior players, including Andrew Hore and Ma’a Nonu as Hammett deemed they weren’t helpful for the team environment.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyLike every fine season of Super Rugby, all is not revealed until the final weekend of the regular season, and the 2014 campaign, and 19th tournament overall of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier provincial competition, will be no different.

However congratulations must be offered to the Waratahs, who offered one piece of clarity over the weekend with their 44-16 win over the Highlanders.

With that, the Waratahs has for the first time qualified as the top-ranked team after the regular season, and become the ninth franchise in history to finish as ‘minor premiers’.

For coach Michael Cheika and his troops, this will be a significant fact even though he was quick to remind all who would listen that the Super Rugby Finals Series would be another step up for a team that looks the goods.

However, as Cheika correctly pointed out, there will be teams with more experience at this stage of the season and this is a crucial factor for potential champions.

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Beauden Barrett will remain at the Hurricanes

Beauden Barrett will remain at the Hurricanes

All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett has ended speculation surrounding his playing future by signing with the Hurricanes for the next two years.

The 23-year-old from coastal Taranaki had been linked with a move to the Blues but said he had enjoyed the supportive environment at the Hurricanes, and looked forward to working with the new coaching staff next year.

“We have a relatively young team here, and I really enjoy the role I play within the squad – it’s been great for my overall rugby development.”

“While some of our results this year have been a bit up and down, I feel as a team we have improved in what has been a really tight competition, and hopefully we have some luck this weekend so we are still in with a chance of making the playoffs.”

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HurricanesAn injury crisis at hooker means Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was unable to finalise his team for their crunch encounter with the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

The men in black and yellow will be doing all they can to claim victory at the Waikato Stadium, as it will be the last round-robin match of the Super Rugby season for the fifth-placed franchise.

Who occupies the No.2 jersey remains to be seen – with team management continuing to monitor the injuries of Dane Coles, Ash Dixon and Motu Matu’u throughout the remainder of the week.

Injuries to Alapati Leiua and Victor Vito in last Saturday’s bruising win over the Crusaders means they have made way for Hadleigh Parkes to start at inside centre, while Brad Shields moves to the back of the scrum.

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Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett

All Black Beauden Barrett may be in the market, but he is definitely not on the Blues’ wishlist.

Barrett revealed that he is likely to resolves the issues around his future next week, when the Hurricanes have a bye.

However, he should be expecting a call from Blues coach John Kirwan, who said he would be looking internally for a flyhalf.

It followed speculation the Hurricanes playmaker, Barrett, could be moving to Auckland.

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Dane Coles

Dane Coles

Victor Vito

Victor Vito

Alapati Leiua

Alapati Leiua

Motu Matu'u

Motu Matu’u

The Hurricanes will continue to sweat on their long list of injured players, with just two rounds of Super Rugby league action remaining.

Their 16-9 Round 17 win over the Crusaders at the weekend took a heavy toll.

All Black hooker Dane Coles heads a casualty list that includes fellow All Black Victor Vito, Alapati Leiua and Motu Matu’u.

All four players are have scans on their respective injuries on Monday.

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CrusadersHurricanesHighlandersChiefsBluesThere is just six competition points separating the five New Zealand Conference teams, but with four intense local derbies to come, there is no chance of the Kiwi teams dominating the 2014 Super Rugby Finals Series.

The Crusaders and Highlanders destinies are in their own hands, although in a delicious twist of fate those two meet in the final round so that clash could be for a top six berth.

The Hurricanes, just one point behind, do not have their fate completely in their own hands, one of just two teams with only one fixture remaining.

The Blues and Chiefs need results to go their way if they are to survive.

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HurricanesThe two leading attacking teams of the 2014 Super Rugby season, the Hurricanes and Crusaders are facing off this weekend in what is expected to be a super-charged match at Westpac Stadium.

Statistics suggest a close encounter is on the cards, with both teams averaging 29 points per game. The Hurricanes have managed to score 407 points in 14 matches, while the Crusaders have generated 381 points in 13 fixtures.

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