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The Tasman-product who has become a loose forward with the Hurricanes

By Adam Julian
Caleb Delany of the Hurricanes looks on before the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders at Sky Stadium on April 09, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes coped some heat for resting All Blacks Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea, and Tyrell Lomax in their Round 12 Super Rugby defeat to the Chiefs.

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However, with the Blues and Crusaders remaining before the playoffs the alternative was to rest for the trio for those fixtures or the finals.

Leaving out marquee players presents opportunities for wider squad members and Caleb Delany is one who is keen to take his chance and replicate his breakthrough 2022 form.

The lock or loose forward has only managed 139 minutes in six appearances this year. In March he ruptured a ligament in his elbow against Blues.

“It required a lot of rest initially and then strength work,” Delany told RugbyPass.

“There was a chance it would require surgery which would have put me out for eight or nine months, but I taped it up and feel the strength returning.”

After missing eight rounds Delany returned a fortnight ago with a try in the 71-22 thrashing of Moana Pasifika. He managed his longest shift of 2023 against the Chiefs with 48 minutes of bustling injury.

“My game is about working hard, hitting breakdowns, making tackles, and winning and stealing lineouts. I’m happy to cover both lock and flanker,” Delany said.

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“It’s important to build depth in the squad so if guys like me are required for the finals they can step up if required.”

In 2020 Crusaders winger and possible rising star Macca Springer won the Philip McDonald Memorial Medal as the best schoolboy player in the Crusaders region out of Waimea Combined.

Rewind three years and Delany was the best player in the same outfit that draws talent from as far as Takaka and Murchison. He was beaten to the MVP by All Black Leicester Fainga’anuku but beat his Nelson College side 38-22 in a boilover.

He won team MVP and received the Jack Jeffs Rugby Scholarship at Wellington’s Victoria University. He has completed a Bachelor of Architecture degree and cemented himself as part of the capital rugby fabric the old-fashioned way.

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He joined Old Boys University where he has played 34 games and scored 12 tries for the Billy Goats – a member of 2018 and 2020 Jubilee Cup winning teams.

His debut season with the Wellington Lions in 2020 earnt a place as a replacement player for the Hurricanes in 2021 where he didn’t get on the field. His first full season for the Hurricanes yielded 12 appearances and 444 minutes catching the eye of Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillian.

The former New Zealand age group softball representative played a blinder off the bench in the second game of a two-match series against Ireland in Wellington.

“Making the Maori All Blacks was a real proud moment for my family and. I’m from Ngati Tuwharetoa and learned so much about my whakapapa and Maori in that environment.

“I was supposed to be a lock replacement for that game in Wellington but when Reed Prinsep got injured early, I had to cover for him at blindside.

“Ireland was massive. They were very physical and clinical at the breakdown. They really contest that hard and a little differently from New Zealand teams.”

Ireland won the match 30-24.

The Wellington Lions didn’t look like winning the title in the early rounds of the 2022 NPC. They were upset by Northland without scoring a try in Round 3. Some heavy soul-searching resulted in honest appraisals about strategy and individual accountability. Wellington would win their next 10 constitutive matches.

Wellington kept successive opponents scoreless for the first time since 1999, stripped the Ranfurly Shield of Hawke’s Bay ending the Magpies’ impressive tenure at 14, and then defended it themselves against top-of-the-table Waikato 34-6.

“I didn’t realise how important the Ranfurly Shield is to the city and the people until we won it. I remember watching Southland win it off Canterbury as a kid and thinking this is emotional, but I didn’t really get it. The response was crazy and gratifying. I guess it’s an elusive thing with the randomness of the draw.”

In the semis, the Lions thrashed Auckland by a record score of 54-19. Perennial champions Canterbury awaited in the final.

“We found our stride in that team. All the boys connected on and off the field. We were very confident we’d win in Christchurch. All we had to do was back our systems and we’d be successful. We were playing the best rugby out of anyone.”

Wellington won 26-18 to capture the Premiership for the first time since 2000. In the final Delany made a lineout steal which led to a try by Ruben Love.

He started 12 of 13 matches and was named Maori Sportsperson of the Year at the 2022 Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Premier Blues Awards.

“It was honestly pretty even but we back out defence which by then was really in place to not only shut down teams but hurt them too. We executed well inside their 22.”

The Hurricanes are 8-4 in 2023 and sit in fifth place. They have scored more points (428) and tries (62) than any team. Victory in the next two New Zealand derbies will ensure hosting rights for a home quarter-final. Delany insists the Hurricanes will be a threat in the playoffs.

“We learned a lot from the Chiefs game especially around being accurate with our exits and adjusting to rainy conditions. We’ve just got to trust our systems and better take our opportunities.”

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