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Brayden Iose and Hurricanes to bring the heat to Perth in season opener

Brayden Iose playing against Moana Pasifika in last Friday’s second and final pre-season match. Photo: Andy McArthur.

  • By Steven White

The Hurricanes start their 29th Super Rugby season on the road. This coming weekend they meet the Western Force in Perth, followed by their second round encounter in Melbourne against the Queensland Reds.

Loose forward and Manawatū captain Brayden Iose returns to the team following a breakthrough 2023. The former New Zealand Secondary Schools captain put several years of frustrating injuries behind him to produce a standout season.

Talking with Club Rugby ahead of their departure for Perth on Sunday, Iose said that playing the Aussies first up is no walk in the park.

For a start It is expected to be a hot one for the Force opener. Temperatures are forecast to hit 38 in Perth on Friday, the day of the match local time (kick-off is midnight Friday/Saturday).

“The preparation stays the same whether we are playing them or the Chiefs or Crusaders,” Iose said.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to be on tour with the group, two weeks together in Australia is a good way to start the season.”

Some past Hurricanes campaigns have been launched successfully from early tours overseas, such as to the high veldt in South Africa.

Iose scored two tries against the Force when the Hurricanes beat them 45-35 in cooler conditions in his hometown Palmerston North last April.

The loose forward combination has always been the strength of the Hurricanes and this year is no exception despite the not insignificant loss of Ardie Savea.

“If you look at our loose forward group there is a lot of talent there. At training we really push each other to be better, which brings the best out of us.”

These players include Iose, Manawatū teammate TK Howden, Wellington Lions captain Du Plessis Kirirfi, Hawke’s Bay’s Devan Flanders, Wellington’s Peter Lakai and the returning Brad Shields who is the captain.

With Iose, Flanders, Lakai and Shields all capable No. 8s, it remains to be seen what role Shields plays. He has vast experience at blindside flanker as well as off the back of the scrum. Club Rugby also understands Shields is injured for the start of the season, but nothing alarming and he will back soon.

It is one area that new Head Coach Clark Laidlaw is blessed with.

Iose said that Ardie’s departure can’t be sugar coated, but Shields’ return offsets it somewhat. “To lose Ardie is huge, but to bring Brad back with all his experience is so good. He is an amazing leader and its awesome to have him in the environment.”

Similarly, Dane Coles. “Losing Colsey we lose a lot of niggle!” Asafo Aumua has been made vice-captain. “Asafo has been there for a long time, so we don’t lose much on the field with him. He is a player who speaks with his actions.”

Iose benefitted from the tweaking of the scrum laws last year, whereby the opposing halfback had to stand back behind his pack, thus giving running No. 8s like Iose extra freedom.

This came to the fore when he scored the match-winning try against the Crusaders in June with a sizzling 25-metre burst off the back off the scrum, fending off would-be Crusaders tacklers including All Black Scott Barrett.

Iose scoring for the Hurricanes against the Crusaders last year. Photo: Mike Lewis Pictures.

“With the opposing halfback having to stand back and be less of a pest it creates more opportunity to run off the back of the scrum, which I really love doing.”

Last year the Turbos had another battling season in the NPC, finishing ahead of Southland only. But one of their two wins was against Auckland at Eden Park. Ironically, Iose wasn’t playing that game.

“I was screaming my lungs out at the TV at home!”

He captained the Turbos in eight of their 10 matches, scoring a try in their other win, 31-30 over the Northland Taniwha. He was also a try-scorer in their Turbos’ 17-26 defeat to the eventual champions Taranaki.

Despite their 2023 season record, there are several young players coming through and new Turbos coach Mike Rogers and Academy manager Lifeimi Mafi are working hard in creating a top programme and in building depth out of Waldegrave Street.

“One key for Manawatū is player retention,” said Iose. “There are just so many quality players coming out of Boys’ High and Feilding High School. We have got a really good group of young, local players, and if we can hold on to them in the coming years it is pretty exciting.”

Two such players are recently selected New Zealand Sevens tyro Jayden Keelan (out of Boys’ High) and No.8 Mosese Bason (Feilding).

Iose is also a proud Kia Toa player, although these days being able to play for them is a rarity.

“I have got lots of friends playing for Kias and I know the coaches really well, so I always follow them. They have actually got a pretty exciting young team so hopefully this year they can go close to the Hank.”

Hopefully Iose can be spotted in Kia Toa colours again in the future – but if he’s not it means that he is fit and in form and getting plenty of gametime with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes team to play the Force will be named later in the week.

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