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Warren Whiteley

Warren Whiteley

Inspirational Emirates Lions captain Warren Whiteley has recovered from the calf strain that kept him out of the Super Rugby semifinal last week, and returns to lead the team in the final against the Hurricanes in Wellington New Zealand on Saturday.

Ruan Ackermann drops to the bench, and is joined by Lourens Erasmus and Ross Cronjé.

Herewith the Lions’ media statement.

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Super RugbyMassive experience and exciting new talents are the order of the day for all New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises as they reveal their 2016 squads.

The Highlanders have made minimal changes to their 2015 championship winning squad, with just 9 new additions to their 38-man squad. The side they beat in the 2015 final, the Hurricanes, have taken a similar approach, opting for continuity in retaining 30 players of the greater 39-man squad.

The Chiefs will boast 12 former and current All Blacks in their squad and a further 14 fresh faces. 4 Players have been promoted from the Crusaders’ wider training group with a further 11 players joining the franchise for the 1st time.

The Blues are the only side who have gone against the grain as head coach Tana Umaga has built his 2016 squad around 6 core players, as he looks to resurrect the franchise to his former glory.

We look at all New Zealand’s Super Rugby squads:

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Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi

The Hurricanes have added another scrumhalf to their roster for 2016, signing promising talent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

The Rotorua-born 20-year-old has been playing his rugby in Taranaki for the past 2 seasons, and has had a successful year in 2015 as part of both the New Zealand Under 20 World Championship-winning side, followed by selection in the New Zealand Barbarians team.

He was also a major player in his Taranaki club rugby side’s winning season, with his form for New Plymouth Old Boys’ helping to secure him an ITM Cup contract with Taranaki for 2015.

Tahuriorangi described the move to the Hurricanes as a massive opportunity, not only for himself, but his family.

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Pita Ahki

Pita Ahki

Elusive back Pita Ahki will be 1 player to fill the Hurricanes’ midfield following the departure of Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and Rey Lee-Lo.

Nonu has signed for French giants Toulon while centre partner Smith has joined Pau, who have been promoted to the French Top 14 next season.

Capable to play at No 12 or No 13, Ahki has signed a 2-year deal with the club, having been with the Blues since 2013.

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Otere Black

Otere Black

The Hurricanes have put the Super Rugby Final behind them and started to build for 2016 by announcing the re-signing of talented New Zealand Under 20 and Maori All Black flyhalf, Otere Black.

The 20-year-old Manawatu Turbo was part of the club’s wider training group this year and ended up playing 4 matches in his 1st season, scoring 17 points.

Despite fielding significant interest from at least 3 other New Zealand Super Rugby teams, Black said it was at the Hurricanes where he wanted to continue developing his game.

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Super RugbyIt is the Final of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

The long awaited game to determine the champions of 2015 is finally upon us!

Of course, the South African and Australian Franchises are already done and dusted and only 2 New Zealand sides remain in the race, the all season Log leading Hurricanes and the New Zealand Cinderella side, the Highlanders.

The Final takes place in Wellington, New Zealand at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), at Westpac Stadium.

The Hurricanes are firm favourites for the game, having had by far the best overall performance of all 15 Super Rugby franchises in Super Rugby 2015, and running away with the Combined Log. They certainly played entertaining rugby and a lot of it has to be attributed to their forwards finally stepping up to the plate to match their tremendous backline.

Their defensive structures were much improved and their dangerous backline fired.. if one did not know any better one would swear that every last player was on some serious performance enhancing drugs.

I’ve always said that the Hurricanes were always underperforming in relation to the team they have on paper, but in 2015 all the elements finally came together to make them a fabulous side.

Whatever happens in the final, they deserve plaudits for the season of 2015!

The Highlanders on the other side, turned a lot of seemingly no-name forwards into a monster pack and their backline players turned into a dangerous unit with All Blacks written all over every member.

The Highlanders have lost twice to the Hurricanes already in 2015 but last weekend in the semi-final against the Waratahs they showed that they have progressed upwards a number of rungs in the 2015 season and specifically in the last few weekends.

The Highlanders, having almost always been considered New zealand’s step-child Super Rugby side, have had a real Cinderella season and deserve to be in the final and one is almost unwillingly tempted to urge them on for all the honours in the Final.

As a totally neutral observer, all I can say is that I enjoyed the rugby these two teams dished up for us all in 2015… and may the best team win!

Let the Final roll on… no guts, no glory!

Enjoy it with me, folks.

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Super Rugby finalists' NAME PLATES, which one will be engraved?

Super Rugby finalists’ NAME PLATES, which one will be engraved?


After 124 games spread across 18 Rounds and a fortnight of finals, we stand at the cusp of crowning a 1st-time Super Rugby champion.

We run the rule over both teams – examine their strengths, potntial weaknesses and try to decipher where the game will be won.

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HurricanesChris Boyd has announced his side to battle the Highlanders for the Super Rugby title but is still sweating on Ardie Savea who is yet to prove his fitness.

Meanwhile, Saturday night’s finale will quietly take on an extra meaning for a few of the men in black and yellow.

For long-serving Hurricanes Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and Jeremy Thrush, and fellow teammates Chris Smylie, Rey Lee-Lo and Ben Franks, it will be the last time they run onto Westpac Stadium as Hurricanes.

With 468 caps between them, the 6 players will leave a sizeable hole at the Hurricanes when they depart at the end of the season, but not before they do their best to help lift a Super Rugby trophy for their club.

Boyd has named a similar line-up to help those 6 guys do the job, with the only change coming at reserve hooker where Motu Matu’u returns from a knee injury.

Savea’s knee will continue to be monitored throughout the remainder of the week, with Callum Gibbins bracketed as cover should Savea not be deemed fit.

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Chris Boyd

Chris Boyd

Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said he is taking nothing from his team’s 2 wins over the Highlanders this season ahead of their Final with same opponents on Saturday.

The Hurricanes won their Round 6 encounter 20 / 13 in Dunedin and then in dominant fashion thrashed the Highlanders side 56 / 20 in the return fixture in Round 17 in Napier. However, the latter win was against a considerably weaker Highlanders outfit than the one that they will be facing this Saturday.

“If you remember the last game in Napier they rested their 3 All Blacks (Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Malakai Fekitoa),” Boyd said.

“Patrick Osborne and Nasi Manu also did not play. It was 5 key players for them – so we will take absolutely no energy from that performance at all.”

Conditions for Saturday’s Final is expected to be wet, which might nullify the attacking threats of both teams who are the competition’s leading try scorers. Boyd, on the other hand, feels that there will be running rugby regardless of the conditions.

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HurricanesThis week’s Super Rugby news is of course dominated by the only 2 sides left in the 2015 competition, who will meet in the Final on Saturday, namely the Highlanders and Hurricanes.

In this article we focus on various aspects in the final week for the Hurricanes. We look at how they will approach the final, Conrad Smith discusses his 12-year Hurricanes career and we look at the Hurricane sinjury situation ahead of Saturday’s final.


Game Approch – Keep attacking:

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says that his team will not change their attacking approach when they host their first Super Rugby Final.

The Wellington side will host the Highlanders on the weekend which means that Super Rugby will have a 1st-time titleholder, and for the 5th time it will be an all-New Zealand affair.

The table-topping Hurricanes sealed their home final with a 29 / 9 victory over the Brumbies, while the Highlanders travelled to Sydney and beat the defending champion Waratahs to secure their spot.

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes have not stumbled upon a magic formula this season and their success is built on hard work put in over the last few years by a maturing playing group, according to their coach and captain.

The Hurricanes host Australia’s Brumbies in the Super Rugby semi-final at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday after finishing top of the standings.

It is the 1st semi-final the Wellington-based side have hosted since 2006, creating an expected sell out, and their 1st appearance in the playoffs since 2009.

“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet and there’s not one answer,” coach Chris Boyd said about their success.

“There are a whole lot of bits and pieces that has got the chemistry right.”

The progression of players such as new All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder from the wider training group and the experience gained through seasons of Super Rugby had also played a part, Boyd said.

Captain Conrad Smith, who will play his last game for the Hurricanes on Saturday if his side lose, felt the team’s success had been down to the work done over the last few years.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Final Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia.

1St Place on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes hosts the lowest Qualifier, the Brumbies. In the other match 2nd on the Log, the Waratahs hosts the other qualifier from last weekend, the Highlanders.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No 1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have had wonderful rest weekends, as they sat out during the Top 6 Qualification Round last weekend.

The action is kicked off by the Hurricanes vs Brumbies who do battle in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) on Saturday 27 June.

A little later, over in Sydney, Australia, the Waratahs plays the Highlanders at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

After this Round only 2 Teams remain to contest the Final next weekend.

The Hurricanes vs Brumbies game should be an absolute cracker after the Brumbies’ massive win over the DHL Stormers last weekend, but one would have to give a nod to the most consistent team of this year’s series, the Hurricanes, who have stood out head and shoulders above all comers in 2015.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Hurricanes are punching at the weight they should always punch at in 2015, and I give the win to them, but not by a large margin.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the Waratahs will overcome the staunch Highlanders in Sydney… even though their regular league season was not as brilliant as last season, OR do we say that the Highlander’s faerie tale will continue in 2015?

It is a difficult call to make and I’m leaning towards the Waratahs making it at home in Sydney!

Meanwhile 11Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes will welcome back star flyhalf Beauden Barrett for their semi-final clash against the Brumbies on Saturday, but will be without the services of Cory Jane.

Jane failed to recover from a hamstring injury he suffered in his team’s 21 / 13 win over the Chiefs, with his place taken by Nehe Milner-Skudder, who moves from fullback to the right wing.

Milner-Skudder’s shift sees James Marshall move from flyhalf to the fullback position, with Barrett recovering from his niggle to take over the pivot position.

The Hurricanes will also be further boosted by the return of Ma’a Nonu who was rested for the Chiefs clash 2 weeks ago. He replaces Rey Lee-Lo, who drops down to the bench.

In the pack, new All Blacks squad member James Broadhurst returns to partner Jeremy Thrush, while explosive flank Ardie Savea also returns replacing Callum Gibbins.

The only other changes to the matchday squad is on the bench, which sees Blade Thomson and Matt Proctor both return from injury and will be on the bench. Scrumhalf Chris Smylie also returns to provide cover for TJ Perenara.

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Chris Boyd

Chris Boyd

Hurricanes’ coach Chris Boyd is backing his loose forward trio to step up in their crunch Super Rugby semifinal against the Brumbies on Saturday.

Boys feels Victor Vito and Ardie Savea’s Test aspirations will lift their game and believes Savea was very unlucky to miss out on All Black selection.

He is expecting a compelling response from the 21-year-old flank when he goes head-to-head with Wallaby openside David Pocock in Saturday’s showdown in Wellington.

Boyd believes his 21-year-old tearaway will be a solid replacement if All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Sam Cane or Matt Todd should be struck down by injury.

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