Salesi Rayasi starts on the left wing and Julian Savea on the right wing in tonight’s match against the Waratahs.
- By Kevin McCarthy
What a week of turnstile clicking. There isn’t some ledger to weigh the gains and losses adequately, but it remains fun to ask whether the Hurricanes are progressing, regressing, or staying pretty much the same roster-wise.
It is just me or are these announcements coming earlier and earlier. After all, we won’t see Super Rugby Aotearoa (or whatever it has become) again until February next year.
Yet the squads are all filling up fast, and if the Crusaders are to be believed – that they would have signed Owen Franks if they’d a had a spare spot – they’re fully settled.
Let’s start with Franks. No doubt some will say it’s a last stop shop and we’re picking up ex-Cantab retreads. Wrong, really. A year (or maybe two) of an ex- All Black will do us no harm, and hopefully do quite a bit to bring our young props on.
In a similar light sits the Dominic Bird signing. Once again, an ex-Crusader. Once again, we presume, a bit of a bargain and in an area where you don’t develop talent overnight and where the Hurricanes are always criticised for being underpowered.
The pair combined could and should – fitness and fire in the belly assumed – give our scrummaging a lift.
Of course, they won’t be around in 2023 or 2024, in all likelihood. But their work should be done by then.
You might argue that’s two slots crowded out for young prospects, but that’s a hypothetical, and if we do unearth the next future All Black front row in the next 12 months, well, there’s always an exit button on the old fullahs’ contracts.
No doubts about the really big news of the week however, with TJ Perenara signing back for two years. It would have been heart-breaking to see him plying his last years in that other code.
Now he’ll be back to direct the pack, bring on the young guns who have toiled away bravely all season, and unleashing Reuben Love.
The negative, although you surely could see it coming, was Ngani Laumape’s heading north to Pro 14 rugby in France. Here’s hoping he enjoys himself, makes a goodly amount to salt away for the future, and who knows – comes back to the Hurricanes for a couple of swansong years.
He’s I think unequivocally provided some of the truly memorable tries of the recent Hurricanes’ seasons, perhaps none better than the human pinball storming across the British and Irish Lions to score in the corner.
It remains a great bone of contention that he did not go to the World Cup in Japan. Instead, we had a midfield of same-same and over the hill Sonny Bill. Ngani would not have saved us in the semi-final but he would have punched holes and gone down fighting.
You can pay him no greater compliment than to say if he’d been in red and black, he’d have been in Japan.
Overall, was this a week or two of wins or losses? I’d say wins, and let’s see where the rubble settles by this time next year (and yes, of course we are sweating on what Jordie is going to do).
And if you think we’re ignoring young talent, the Canes have just recruited under-20s star Aidan Morgan as a first-five.
After all, you never know when Reuben Love is going to be past it.
Although we arrogantly assume the humiliation of the Aussie teams is about to begin tonight, there are no givens.
Anyone with fond memories of 2011 and Brad Thorn pumping fists will probably have a fond spot for the rise of the Queensland Reds under his coaching.
So, it would be tragic for the competition if they get a whacking from the Highlanders (our fourth best team) tonight.
The only greater prospective tragedy would be if the Canes (the worst NZ team) could manage to lose to the Waratahs.
Would that be the dunce’s cone or the cone of shame. Doesn’t bear thinking about.