Lachlan Waugh / NZ Herald

Hurricanes coach Jason Holland would have no problem with players electing to sit out of this weekend’s Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Highlanders.

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Both teams are set to square off in Dunedin on Saturday night, but the game going ahead remains unclear due to the latest outbreak of community transmission of Covid-19.

Currently, the country sits at alert Level 2 which would allow the game to go ahead, albeit likely without a crowd, while Auckland is at Level 3, which would see the Blues v Crusaders clash cancelled.

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Holland says players have not spoken out yet about being reluctant to play, but if they do, he completely understands.

“If people had worries then we understand the person behind the decision. At the moment there’s been nothing like [that] and we’ve got really good trust in firstly our CEO and our board, and then the Government and New Zealand Rugby to make really good decisions. We’ve had no boys who don’t want to play for those reasons.”

New Zealand Rugby is yet to make a decision on this weekend’s action, which also sees the Blues hosting the Crusaders at a sold-out Eden Park on Sunday. That match is set to be cancelled unless Auckland moves down to Level 2, where crowd restrictions will apply.

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Holland says there is still a lot of “grey” around the situation, but hopes to receive more information later today.

“We could be flying on the day, we could be going tomorrow.

“It’s definitely strange, I suppose the last six or seven months have taught us that we got to be positive around everything we do and just be ready to do everything as well as we possibly can when we get the opportunity.

“Everyone in New Zealand’s had to put up with strange things and we just got to get on with it as best we can.”

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First-five Jackson Garden-Bachop, who has been named to start in the 10 jersey, described the situation as “peculiar”.

“This stuff with Covid is another hurdle to get over. Obviously going through lockdown … it was always a chance it could come back, but the boys are handling it well.”

Holland says in and amongst the uncertainty, the team has managed to stay focused on the task that remains, for the meantime, at hand following a couple of training sessions.

“For the last three or four games we’ve had a real focus on ourselves and wanting to play really good footy, and I think by and large we’ve done that. While the Crusaders have done the job we still have a bit of pride around what we put out.

“There’s still second up for grabs.”

Should the match go ahead, it will signal a rest for co-captain TJ Perenara, who has played every minute of every game in the competition so far.

Perenara’s exclusion sees Jamie Booth get the nod at starting halfback, with youngster Jonathan Taumateine due to come off the bench.

In the other change to the starting XV, Billy Proctor comes in for Kobus Van Wyk and joins Peter Umaga-Jensen in the midfield. Vince Aso moves to the right wing.

For the Highlanders, they have made just the one alteration to the side that went down to the Crusaders. Flanker Tom Florence comes onto the bench in place of Jesse Parete.

It will be a special occasion for co-captains Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon, who bring up 150 and 100 Super Rugby caps respectively.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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