Super Rugby 2013 Preview 9: The Hurricanes

canes The Hurricanes fought hard for a play-off spot last year, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t on the cards for them. Even though they scored far more tries than any other franchise in 2012, outscoring the table-topping Stormers by a massive margin of 30 five-pointers, they ended up in 8th place.

It just goes to show that winning matches is the only way to the title – dare I say by penalties or not.

They’ve never had the same amount of All Blacks in their ranks as their counterparts, but what an impressive line-up they have. With guys like Conrad Smith, André Taylor and Julian Savea running devastating lines from anywhere on the field, TJ Perenara’s nippiness and Beauden Barrett’s all-round skill, they are a menacing prospect for any defense.

For me, their problem has always been up front. If the forces in the backline could get go-forward ball more often, things could improve for them. Ben Franks’ decision to join the Hurricanes is a very welcome one, and with him comes a lot of experience and an almost automatic stabilisation of the front row, not to mention his ability to play both sides of the scrum.

All eyes will be on Julian Savea’s younger brother, Ardie, who played New Zealand Sevens. Julian’s not-so-little sibling is a loose forward and if he’s anything like big bro, the opposition will have their hands full whenever he is on the field.

Some unfortunate news is that Cory Jane tore a ligament in his knee so badly that it will require surgery and probably keep him off the pitch for the entire season.

The Canes, however, didn’t look too bothered by the loss when they faced the Crusaders in their first warm-up match, sneaking a narrow 27-26 win. They scored 5 tries, but only converted 1 through the boot of André Taylor and that would make me scratch my head a bit if I was Coach Mark Hammett. If I’m not wrong, Beauden Barrett didn’t play and the kicking duty landed on Taylor’s shoulders, which didn’t go well. So what will they do in the event of an injury to Barrett? Tries won’t keep coming like this, accurate goal kicking is vital in order to make any kind of ground in this competition.

Although I find their general play exciting to watch, they are still too thin in the tight five and too loose in defense. I see another heartbreakingly close season for them and I am therefore bumping them one place in my prediction, slotting them into the 7th place on the log.

by Jackie Smit