- By Kevin McCarthy
- Photos by Hugh Pretorius
We’re well into the second half of the regular comp and the Hurricanes continue to feel like an Imposter Syndrome team.
Sitting fourth on the blended log and second in reality, you’d expect the team to be in dominant shape, on a roll, being talked of as serious contenders.
Yet you’d struggle mightily to say that. In fact, they feel less coherent as a side than the 2018 vintage at this point – and in 2018 that went pretty flat and insipid from now on in.
This season you have a team that has yet to put a comprehensive performance on the park. They’ve won a slew of games by only a few points, their forwards aren’t respected, and the backs still look better on paper than in reality some days.
Yet in true Hurricanes fashion it’s also a team that can unleash some brilliant tries, and know how to guts it out in the final minutes. The scrum very occasionally surprises.
So it’s disorientating. I guess we’ll know in the next four or so games which way the compass is finally going to point. That quartet includes two more local derbies, but none against the Crusaders of course. The run-in is tricky with the regular season ending with games in South Africa. Not ideal from an air miles on the clock basis.
The optimist – and we’re all about the optimism – will say that the team is coming right and with a few key players back in the mix, there’s no reason to doubt the side can secure second in the NZ conference and therefore 4th seed.
Picking who else will be there is a lottery. You could say an even comp is a good comp. But this year feels more like a mediocre comp.
But on to the Chiefs this weekend. They’re sliding again after seeming to revive. So the Hurricanes should look to getting the win that eluded them earlier in Hamilton. That, you’ll remember, was a draw.
Shock news this week don’t you think. Who would have thought Andrew Mehrtens is being seriously looked at as a back-up first five for the Rugby World Cup.
Admittedly that’s only because Grant Fox isn’t allowed as a selector to select himself, although what’s the point of being a selector if you can’t do that.
Dan Carter’s been mentioned but he’s both too young, at a mere 37, and also would need a Zimmer frame which at this stage is actually reserved for Nonu’s return in midfield.
Actually why not try Nonu at first five backup? His kicking game got better in the last year or two of his career.
Personally I would favour Doug “the All Blacks ARE running it “ Bruce but he may be drawing the pension these days or playing for the Panasonic VCRs, which is pretty much the same thing.
Anyway, let’s toss a few more names in the ring. They could actually be current players if you want to get weird with it.
And meanwhile, somewhere up the Mekong Delta, where Colonel Kurtz still resides, Beaver is whitebaiting. And his cellphone message inbox is full up. Full up.
The big news for local supporters in the Hurricanes team named to face the Chiefs on Saturday night is Asafo Aumua starting at hooker.
The former – and hopefully future – All Black should be raring to go and if he can find his form pre-hand injury anytime soon then look out.
Ricky Riccitelli starts off the bench and Dane Coles has either been rested and rotated out or is injured.
Beauden and Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea are also back in the line-up.
Kick-off at Westpac Stadium on Saturday is 7.35pm, following the fifth round of the Swindale Shield.
The Hurricanes squad to face the Chiefs is:
15 Jordie Barrett
14 Wes Goosen
13 Matt Proctor
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Chase Tiatia
10 Beauden Barrett
9 TJ Perenara (c)
8 Reed Prinsep
7 Ardie Savea
6 Vaea Fifita
5 Kane Leaupepe
4 James Blackwell
3 Ben May
2 Asafo Aumua
1 Fraser Armstrong
16 Ricky Riccitelli
17 Xavier Numia
18 Jeff To’omaga-Allen
19 Isaia Walker-Leawere
20 Sam Henwood
21 Richard Judd
22 James Marshall
23 Salesi Rayasi