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Jason Holland reveals the extent of the Hurricanes' last-minute disruptions

By Tom Vinicombe
Logan Henry. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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The Hurricanes escaped with a 21-14 win over the Highlanders in Wellington despite a number of disruptions to the team in the build-up to Saturday’s fixture.

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Two players, hooker Asafo Aumua and halfback Jamie Booth, both had to be withdrawn from the fixture despite initially being named in the run-on XV. Their positions in the starting lineup were taken by debutant Siua Maile and Richard Judd, with more newbies coming onto the bench in the forms of Logan Henry and Raymond Tuputupu.

Speaking after the match, Ardie Savea indicated that Covid had played at least some part in the disruptions.

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“With Omicron and whatnot going through the teams, [there were] some late changes,” the Hurricanes captain said on Sky Sports’ post-game broadcast.

However, head coach Jason Holland confirmed that at least in Booth’s case, the absence was injury-enforced.

 

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“We had Boothy pull out yesterday,” he said. “We’re not even sure what’s up with his knee but he wasn’t right to play so Logs was late in there.

“Then a couple of hookers [pulled] out in the last 24 hours. Raymond, the reserve hooker, we pulled in this morning. He got to us at 3 o’clock today and was rapidly trying to learn lineout calls and Siua went in to start and had an unbelievable game.”

Assuming Aumua was pulled due to Covid, it’s likely the All Blacks hooker will have to skip next week’s clash with Moana Pasifika and won’t be available to play until the Hurricanes’ Round 5 match with the Chiefs.

The prognosis is still not yet certain for Booth, however Holland was optimistic he won’t be sidelined for a long period of time.

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“I wouldn’t think so,” Holland said. “He had a scan to confirm yesterday afternoon and we’ll probably get the results tomorrow or Monday morning. But no, I don’t think [he’ll be out for too long], he’s still able to get around the place so fingers crossed, we’re hoping he’s not too bad.”

With the likes of TJ Perenara and Cam Roigard already sidelined, Booth was the only fit fully-contracted halfback in the Hurricanes squad prior to this weekend. According to Holland, replacement Judd stood up admirably in his first start at Super Rugby level since 2019 while the coach was pleased to see last-minute replacement Henry touch down for an important try in the second half.

“We had our three guys we contracted at the start of the season, our three 9s, all out,” Holland said. “I thought Juddy was outstanding tonight as well and then for Logs to cement all the hard work he’s done in our environment and probably for the [Manawatu] Turbos is cool. It’s cool when you get reward for hard work.

“Logs only knew he was playing yesterday but he’s been with us for a bit of the pre-season. He impressed us when he was with the Turbos and he’s been training away for us for a long time and just hasn’t had an opportunity. I think that was his first touch when he scored the try so it’s pretty cool for Logs.”

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Captain Savea was also impressed with how the young players in the side stood up in the victory.

“We were prepared for [Covid playing a role in the competition] and we’re just really proud of the guys that have come through,” he said. “We had one of the boys drive down from Palmy today and he jumped on the bench and made his debut. I’m just stoked that we got the [win] and it’s nice to be home and play in front of a few fans.

“All the teams [are] having to adjust to Covid and the potential of boys getting knocked out on game day or the day before so it’s all about who can adjust the best. We had boys coming into the starting lineup, boys coming on the bench, just stoked we were able to go out there and just jam.”

Holland echoed those sentiments.

“The guys all stood up, we’ve got to adapt to whatever’s thrown at us and the boys are doing it well … Some pretty cool stories that [the last-minute ring-ins] will tell on their 50th game for the Hurricanes.”

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