The Hurricanes have named a squad of 27 players to travel to South Africa and Argentina for the start of the 2020 Super Rugby campaign.
Headlining the abbreviated squad to take on the Stormers in Cape Town and Jaguares in Buenos Aires over the next fortnight are All Blacks stars TJ Perenara and Jordie Barrett.
Neither player has featured throughout pre-season as part of their extended break following last year’s World Cup in Japan.
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The duo – who were present at Onewa Domain for the Hurricanes’ 29-28 defeat to the Blues in Auckland on Friday – will be confined to just 40 and then 60 minutes of game time in the season’s opening two matches as part of the All Blacks’ rest program.
Their returns will nevertheless be welcomed by head coach Jason Holland, whose side will need Perenara’s and Barrett’s talents and experience after the Wellingtonians lost both of their pre-season fixtures to the Blues and Crusaders.
Perenara’s fellow co-captain Dane Coles hasn’t travelled with the squad, with hopes he’ll play in the round three clash against the Sharks at Sky Stadium on February 15.
The Hurricanes’ only other Kiwi World Cup representative, Ardie Savea, remains sidelined as he recovers from knee surgery which took place at the end of last year.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 24, 2020
Despite the absence of Coles and Savea, the Hurricanes will still have plenty of players with All Blacks experience at their disposal through the likes of Ngani Laumape, Vaea Fifita, Asafo Aumua, Tyrel Lomax and Gareth Evans.
The race to replace departed star Beauden Barrett has been narrowed down to specialist first-fives Fletcher Smith and Jackson Garden-Bachop, both of whom have been named to travel, unlike experienced playmaker James Marshall.
Additionally, second rower James Blackwell has also been included, even though he was seen sporting a moonboot in the wake of Friday’s loss to the Blues.
Holland has called upon a new name from outside of the original 38-man squad he named two months ago, with former Chiefs prop Tevita Mafileo, who has been training with the Blues over pre-season, drafted into the side.
The 21-year-old is part of a five-man prop contingent that excludes full squad members Ben May and Xavier Numia, and he could join Super Rugby rookies Pouri Rakete-Stones and Devan Flanders in making his Hurricanes debut next Saturday when they face a strong Stormers outfit at Newlands.
The Cape Town-based club have a plethora of World Cup-winning Springboks in their ranks, including South African skipper Siya Kolisi and reigning World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Other members of the world champion Springboks squad plying their trade for the Stormers are Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse, while veteran Wales and British and Irish Lions midfielder Jamie Roberts has also been recruited.
Subsequently, Holland is expecting a tough encounter to open the new campaign.
“As always, you can expect the game is going to be extremely physical,” he said.
“We know they will have a certain confidence this year too – but we’ve got a good side who have taken lessons from pre-season and are ready for what’s to come.”
The Hurricanes will travel to Argentina following their bout with the Stormers in preparation for their round two meeting with the Jaguares at Estadio Jose Amalfitani on February 8.
Hurricanes squad to face the Stormers and Jaguares
Fraser Armstrong, Tyrel Lomax, Tevita Mafileo, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, Ricky Riccitelli, Asafo Aumua, James Blackwell, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Scott Scrafton, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Gareth Evans, Vaea Fifita, Devan Flanders, Reed Prinsep.
TJ Perenara, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Fletcher Smith, Ngani Laumape, Billy Proctor, Vince Aso, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Wes Goosen, Ben Lam, Chase Tiatia, Jordie Barrett.
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