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Hurricanes vs Chiefs takeaways: Yellow is the new red, Razor will be calling

By Ned Lester
Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs and Asafo Aumua of the Hurricanes. (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Super Rugby Pacific reins have finally been relinquished by the Crusaders and it’s the Hurricanes who are seizing the opportunity, dominating the competition and proving their youth won’t hold them back in the big games.

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On Saturday night the Wellington squad sent a message to the competition that on their night they can steamroll their nearest challenger, with ambitious attack and strengths across the park.

Half of Wellington came out for the contest and only the sprinkling of Chiefs fans across Sky Stadium were heading home disappointed, but all fans headed for the gates entertained.

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It was a classic Super Rugby Pacific contest, here are some takeaways.

TJ Perenara is still in his prime

The halfback is fit and firing, missing no opportunity to inflict his will on the game.

Coming up against one of the game’s brightest young stars at No. 9 in Cortez Ratima, Perenara had moments where his performance offered a clinic on how to be an aggressive, opportunistic threat at halfback.

The 32-year-old is hyper-aware of the laws and picks his moments around the ruck defensively to make life hell for opposition halfbacks, or anyone looking to pick the ball up from the back of the ruck.

Against the Chiefs on Saturday night, Perenara equalled Julian Savea’s record for most tries in Super Rugby Pacific history, later telling the commentary team post-match that Savea would be receiving a text from him the minute he gets his phone back in the locker room, as is the competitive nature of the No. 9.

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Perenara is showing nothing but energy and enthusiasm every time he’s near the ball and offers an experienced head in fine form for Scott Robertson’s consideration. It’s very likely the coach is eyeing Perenara for a return to higher honours.

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The Hurricanes scrum is a cheat code 

Time after time the Hurricanes scrum destroyed the Chiefs, with both Xavier Numia and Tyrel Lomax winning penalties.

Lomax is an established All Black, well-known as the premier tighthead prop in the country over recent years and provides strong play in the core areas for his position.

Numia on the other hand debuted for the All Blacks XV in 2023 and has had to prove he is more than a dynamic, ball-playing prop. In 2024, he has certainly done that.

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Aided by the sometimes inhuman strength of Asafo Aumua, the Hurricanes’ props absolutely destroyed their Chiefs counterparts, ensuring they always had a foothold in the contest.

That dominance did falter briefly to start the second half, but the Hurricanes boast both quality and quantity. The reserve unit of Pouri Rakete-Stones and Pasilio Tosi offer immense size and strength, giving the Chiefs no respite in the final quarter of the game.

On the flip side of this, It’s hard to see the Chiefs going all the way this season if they can be overpowered like this so consistently in a match.

Momentum

0'
HT
FT
Hurricanes
Chiefs

Clark Laidlaw was the signing of the year

The former Sevens guru’s success with the Hurricanes raises some intriguing questions. While the young core Laidlaw has inherited have no doubt developed into some of the most promising prospects in the country, it’s curious that the Canes have taken such a giant leap after Jason Holland departed for the All Blacks.

Laidlaw maintained plenty of continuity within the coaching staff, while the departures of Dane Coles and Ardie Savea didn’t stop the coach from making bold calls around the youth of his side, famously signalling to Julian Savea that it was time for the next generation to take centre stage.

The appointment appears to be working wonders for Jordie Barrett in particular. A challenge when moving up from fullback and a skillset the northern hemisphere are separating themselves with is the ability to play the ball comfortably right at the line. Barrett is looking much more comfortable in the face of aggressive defensive line speed in 2024 already, making good reads and executing as a playmaker. Barrett’s skillset had the Chiefs defence hesitating in the contest, resulting in a soft shoulder for the bruiser to attack in the midfield.

Overall, the Hurricanes players look empowered, positive and like they are playing with unrivalled freedom. Giving Asafo Aumua captaincy responsibilities is looking like a superb call.

The coach has emphasised culture within the team and for a squad so familiar with each other thanks to the Lions’ recent NPC success, there’s a strong core of players who are tight-knit and play for each other.

Yellow is the new red

There will never be another dynasty like the Crusaders’ recent run in Super Rugby, and there shouldn’t be. So, this isn’t to say the Canes are about to launch an all-out assault on the competitiveness of this competition, but there has been a power shift and the Wellington club have staked their claim as the strongest team in the competition.

Of the many players coming of age for the Hurricanes in 2024, many are in their early 20s.

Aside from Brad Shields who was initially named captain but has only recently joined the fold on the field, the captaincy honours have been shared by Asafo Aumua (26) and Jordie Barrett (27).

Attack

161
Passes
133
119
Ball Carries
102
289m
Post Contact Metres
144m
7
Line Breaks
3

The lineout was shaky at times but outside of that, the Hurricanes looked to be the stronger team across the park on Saturday night, proving their youth is no barrier to complete performances.

The big test will of course come in the knockout stages, where the Hurricanes are likely to enjoy home-field advantage. That will be the true test of character for this team and their newfound energy.

Big decisions beckon for New Zealand Rugby and Peter Lakai

Peter Lakai, Brayden Iose and Du’Plessis Kirifi are all names that have justifiably been mentioned in All Blacks discussion this season, and given Kirifi is currently coming off the bench and a certain World Rugby Player of the Year will be back on deck in 2025, it begs the question of whether the Hurricanes, and New Zealand Rugby, can retain all this talent.

Perhaps a bigger question comes over one specific selection. Lakai entered the fray as a No. 8 with the ability to play openside, excelling in the No. 7 jersey of late. If he has the capacity to don the No. 6 jersey, that might be an option worth exploring at the expense of Shields. That being said, at such a young age, moving the youngster around is something you want to limit.\

Player Carries

1
Wallace Sititi
17
2
Joshua Moorby
15
3
Samipeni Finau
15

Lakai and the coaching staff – of both the Hurricanes and All Blacks – have to make a decision on where his future lies. Given his form at just 21 years of age, it’s likely the loose forward will rise to be a premier option at any position he should choose, but it’s worth having the conversation over where his services will be needed the most.

The No. 8 and openside positions offer national selectors plenty of depth, whereas Jerome Kaino’s boots on the blindside flank have proven incredibly difficult to fill. Lakai has the work rate and physicality, although lacks the height of a Shannon Frizell or Kaino.

One man whom Lakai has been likened to is Savea, and so regardless of which position Lakai ends up in, the lesson that Savea’s career should have taught New Zealand Rugby is that just because a player offers versatility, that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Give this kid one role to master and see how he flies.

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J
Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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