While the Hurricanes had already revealed many of their key signings for next year ahead of the official squad release, they’ve still managed to slip in a few surprises announcements today.
27-year-old Lolagi Visinia was, as far as anyone could tell, destined to play for the All Blacks from a young age. That never quite eventuated, with the rangey outside back heading offshore at the end of 2016. Visinia returned to New Zealand earlier this year, however, and instantly made an impact for Mitre 10 Cup Championship winners Hawke’s Bay.
Now, Visinia’s professional career is officially back on track, with the former Auckland earning a call-up to the Hurricanes for 2020.
Visinia will join fellow pace-setters Julian Savea, Wes Goosen and Salesi Rayasi in a stacked outside backs contingent that also includes Jordie Barrett and Super Rugby debutant Pepesana Patafilo.
Rayasi was arguably the most dangerous player throughout the Mitre 10 Cup in 2020, and completed the season with 14 tries to his name. To put that in context, the competition’s next top try-scorer, hooker Ash Dixon, nabbed just nine. Rayasi will take the field for Moana Pasifika on Saturday when they take on the Maori All Blacks.
All Blacks half-centurion Savea, meanwhile, also returned to NZ earlier this year. Despite indicating that his preference was to play in the midfield, the 2015 World Cup title winner spent much of the provincial season on the wing and will likely be employed in a similar fashion by the Hurricanes.
Wellington’s Patafilo and Ruben Love, Manawatu’s Brayden Iose, and Bay of Plenty’s Luke Campbell are the only players in the squad who have yet to play Super Rugby.
Campbell has been brought in to compensate for TJ Perenara’s sabbatical in Japan, which will see the All Black miss the entire Super Rugby season. Jonathan Taumateine and Jamie Booth are the team’s other two halfbacks, though Booth will be sidelined for at least the first half of the season after being stretchered off the field during Manawatu’s provincial campaign.
Taumateine will likely have first shot at the No. 9 jersey and will almost certainly combine with Wellington’s Jackson Garden-Bachop in the halves.
Simon Hickey is the other experienced playmaking option in the squad while Love is a prospect for the future. Waikato’s Fletcher Smith has surprisingly missed out altogether despite receiving nominations for NZ provincial player of the year for 2018 and 2019 after spending the past two seasons with the Hurricanes but failing to nail down a starting role.
The Hurricanes have bolstered their playing stocks leading into the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign. #SuperRugbyAotearoa #SuperRugbyTransTasman #SuperRugby #Hurricanes https://t.co/fX8GSYXOcC
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 20, 2020
The loose forwards will again be an area of strength for the 2016 Super Rugby champions, with Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Devan Flanders likely to form a blockbusting combination.
The Hurricanes kick off their campaign against the Blues in late February.
Hurricanes squad for 2021:
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