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Brett Cameron's signing creates backline conundrum for Hurricanes

By Tom Vinicombe
Brett Cameron. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Four years following the departure of Beauden Barrett, the Hurricanes will once again have an All Black running the cutter at first five-eighth.

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Former Crusader Brett Cameron will make his return to Super Rugby next year after spending the 2022 season representing the Kamaishi Sea Waves in Japan’s Rugby League One competition and will go head to head with the likes of Aidan Morgan and Ruben Love for minutes in the Hurricanes No 10 jersey.

Already head coach Jason Holland had a backline puzzle on his hands thanks to the abundance of talent available to the franchise, and Cameron’s recruitment only complicates matters further.

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Young guns Morgan and Love shared time at flyhalf this year with the more experienced Jackson Garden-Bachop. Garden-Bachop won’t be back next season, however, but Cameron’s arrival means there’s likely to still be a three-way shootout for the No 10 responsibilities.

At 25 years of age and with three seasons of Super Rugby experience under his belt (although, admittedly, few caps to show for it), Cameron is the most proven of the lot and excelled for Manawatu throughout last year’s NPC.

While his All Blacks call-up may have been premature, with Cameron earning a handful of minutes off the bench against Japan in 2018 following a breakout provincial campaign with Canterbury, there is reason to believe that he could be the mature, guiding presence the Hurricanes have been searching for at first receiver ever since Barrett shifted to the Blues in 2020.

Morgan, meanwhile, showed glimpses of his raw talent throughout this year’s campaign and looms as the best out-and-out back-up for Cameron on the bench, while Love has sometimes looked like a square peg in a round hole when running the cutter in his two seasons with the Hurricanes. That’s no fault of the 21-year-old’s, who has spent much of his representative career playing in the No 15 jersey.

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With Jordie Barrett spending the latter part of the season gone in the midfield, Love’s best opportunity to advance his career could be at fullback – but the emergence of Josh Moorby in 2022 means even in his preferred role, Love will have his work cut out for him to lock down starts.

There are also no guarantees that Barrett will remain at No 12, given the presence of Peter Umaga-Jensen, Billy Proctor and Bailyn Sullivan in the capital.

The former two are now deep into their Hurricanes’ careers while Sullivan was perhaps the best signing made by any New Zealand Super Rugby side last year and helped add to thrust to the midfield. While there were some left-field calls for the All Blacks to bring Sullivan into their fold, the former Chiefs representative will need to significantly up his game on defence if he is to push for higher honours.

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With Barrett, Umaga-Jensen and Proctor on the books – as well as the looming shadow of age-grade wunderkind Riley Higgins – it could be that Sullivan is able to best make an impact in the wider channels, now that Wes Goosen has headed offshore.

The Hurricanes still have Salesi Rayasi and Julian Savea to call upon on the wings, however, meaning Sullivan will have his work cut out for him wherever he decides to focus his attentions.

Wherever the likes of Love, Barrett and Sullivan end up playing, it’s clear that coach Holland has some of the best talent in the country to call upon in the Hurricanes backline and while the men from the capital did come close to scraping into the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals this year, their consistency throughout the season left much to be desired. The arrival of Brett Cameron won’t suddenly convert the Hurricanes into world-beaters, but it does improve their chances heading into 2023 – provided that Jason Holland can fit all the puzzle pieces together.

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