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FIRST FIVE KEY FOR THE CANES- A Potential 2021 Hurricanes Squad

With the Mitre 10 Cup start and the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa fast approaching, I thought it would be good to have a look into just what each franchise needs. This is the third part of a five-part series, today looking at the Hurricanes.

THE LOWDOWN

The Hurricanes are the other New Zealand side without a coach confirmed for the 2021 season, but with the uncertainty of COVID, but more importantly a pretty good showing on the field, Jason Holland will surely be offered the job after a reasonably good audition. Onto the squad, The Canes have signed up youngsters Xavier Numia and Tevita Mafileo, which means that Fraser Armstrong and Pouri Rakete-Stones are going for one spot. At 28, Armstrong has some much-needed experience, and as the starting prop, you would imagine he will be the one retained for the 2021 season. Coles, Aumua and Riccitelli are all signed up, while tightheads Alex Fidow and Tyrel Lomax will be there for the long term. Big Ben May will surely move on, meaning a new tighthead will be required. Workhorse, James Blackwell will be joined by Scott Scrafton, Liam Mitchell and Kane Le’aupepe, while Isaia Walker-Leawere has yet to sign a deal. With question marks of age and ability for the latter three, Walker-Leawere surely will earn another deal. 2022, will surely be the year to target one of the Crusader’s locks. The Hurricanes loose forwards are set for a refresh, with Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Devan Flanders being the only ones signed. Gareth Evans and Vaea Fifita, are seemingly off, which will leave some big homes. Murphy Taramai will also do well to get a renewal. Into the backs, where halfbacks TJ Perenara, Jamie Booth and Jonathan Taumateine are all signed up, confirming they will be strong there again. The men from the capital failed to replace Beauden Barrett this season, which will see one of if not both Jackson Garden-Bachop (Who I have touted for the Crusaders) and Fletcher Smith. James Marshall is not signed up and he will also likely depart. One of those three will surely stay, along with Simon Hickey. The Hurricanes have a complete five-prong midfield contingent secured for next season, with Ngani Laumape, Vince Ason, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Billy Procter and Danny Toala all locked in for next season and beyond. Finally, in the outside backs, Jordie Barrett has just been confirmed for 2021, while Chase Tiatia and Wes Goosen are staying in the capital. Kobus Van Wyk and Ben Lam are going, or in the case of Lam gone, leaving just Jonah Lowe and Salesi Rayasi. With the uncertainty of the Olympics, Rayasi would be silly not to commit to the 15 man game, while the Canes would likely face little competition for the signature of Jonah Lowe.

WHAT THEY NEED

With this all in mind, The Hurricanes will be looking for a tighthead prop, three loose forwards, up to two first-fives and a winger. 

THE SEARCH

Starting at tighthead, the Hurricanes won’t have a great deal of worry with this one. With Lomax aged 24 and Fidow 22, the Hurricanes will likely target someone with a good older head. Ben May could well be welcomed back, but at 37 it is surely time for him to move on. The Canes could look to a guy coming out the Mitre 10 Cup, but I am going to bring to the table a current and a former Highlanders and Counties Manukau prop. The first option is 24-year-old Irish born Conan O’Donnell. Similar to Crusader Oli Jager, O’Donnell shifted to New Zealand for the sole purpose of playing rugby. After a solid Mitre 10 Cup, O’Donnell spent pre-season with the Crusaders, before debuting for the Highlanders. He is not huge in size, but he makes that up in other ways. Option two is Kalolo Tuiloma. The 30-year-old was playing in Major League Rugby, but I can only assume has returned to New Zealand due to COVID. The Wellington born Tuiloma is massive in size, in all ways and would be a good third choice.

Option: Kalolo Tuiloma

Moving into the loose, and I am going to bring forward three options, although there is one other guy who may well head to the Hurricanes. Tom Florence is that one, but as I have already touted him to go to the Highlanders, (He has been with them as an injury replacement this season) I won’t be delving further into him. The first option is Ajay Lafaele-Mua. Lafaele-Mua appears to be yet another bright talent, at number eight. With great raw skills and a big frame, there is certainly a lot to work with for the Hurricanes coaching staff. Being from the Bay, there is every chance he may well be snapped up by the Chiefs. Next, we have current Crusader Ethan Roots. Roots has seen next to no game time in Christchurch and appears off-contract. Similar to Lafaele-Mua, he comes with bucket loads of potential, and he would be a very shrewd pickup. Finally, is Mitch Jacobson. Jacobson, it a strong tackler and good on defence, so he could compliment the ball-playing of Kirifi and Savea quite well. Jacobson has however struggled to make an impact at this level, and may well fancy a shift offshore. Option: Ethan Roots and 2x Mitre 10 Cup Standout

Next is the big one for the Hurricanes- first five. Simon Hickey is locked in for next year, but he shapes as more of a backup. Having touted Jackson Garden-Bachop for a move to the Crusaders, it leaves the Canes in need of two first fives. Fletcher Smith is yet to be offered a new deal, and he has struggled to make an impact in the capital. I would expect him to move on. The final current Hurricane is James Marshall. At 31, he feels older than he really is and he may well get a one year deal. Can the Hurricanes do better? I have settled on one option for definite, who is likely to be joined by someone from the Mitre 10 Cup. That option is Brett Cameron. Whilst there are several other off- first fives, including Bryn Gatland and Harry Plummer, Brett Cameron is their man. Cameron is originally from the Hurricanes region and clearly has the ability. The 23-year-old made a very much premature All Blacks debut, but more than anything that signals just how much potential the coaches think he has. He has struggled for game time and confidence at the Crusaders, but if the Hurricanes pick him and back him, he could well be a long term option. Joining Cameron will be another first five. This is very much a fluid option. Whether it be a Dan Hollinshead or a Baden Kerr, the situation is fluid. It could end up being someone who shoots through at the Mitre 10 level and takes their chance, but ultimately most of the sides seemingly have a ten set in stone. 

Option: Brett Cameron and Dan Hollinshead

Finally, in the outsides, the Hurricanes will be on the search for a winger. With Wes Goosen likely taking one wing, it would leave the inexperience of Jonah Lowe and Salesi Rayasi to battle it out on the other wing. The Canes will be looking for one if not two wingers. There are a few guys who they could look at, but I am going to pinpoint two. The first of those is Tima Fainga’anuku. Fainga’anuku has been with the Highlanders this season but has struggled for game time after a couple of average games to start the season. A big, strong and powerful ball runner, Fainga’anuku may be looking to completely relocate, as he may well struggle for game time in Tasman this year. He could well be the perfect compliment to Wes Goosen. Similarly to other positions, if this was to fail, then an off-contract Crusader like Leicester Fainga’anuku could be an option the year after. The other option is Caleb Makene. Makene has been around a few years now, and after shifting back to Hawkes Bay, a big Mitre 10 Cup could propel him into the Super Rugby picture. Makene, may well be another average player, and the Hurricanes might want something more. I think the Hurricanes would also be well advised to carry a youngster, a twentyish-year-old, to simply get him up to speed.

Option: Tima Fainga’anuku 

THE FINDINGS

The Hurricanes have not been miles off the pace this season, and with a few additions, they will be right in it. Upfront, the changes won’t be too noticeable. Pouri Rakete-Stones and Ben May will depart, while the big Kalolo Tuiloma might be a decent backup. In the loose Ethan Roots will go a long way towards replacing the powerful Vaea Fifita, while the Gareth Evans sized hole will be left for someone from the Mitre 10 Cup. Assuming all three current number tens depart, current Crusader Brett Cameron and Dan Hollinshead could join the already signed Simon Hickey. Finally, on the wing, Tima Fainga’anuku will go a long way towards replacing the impressive duo of Ben Lam and Kobus Van Wyk. Despite the return of Salesi Rayasi, I would not be surprised if the Canes also carry a young winger, to get him up to speed for the future.

2021 SQUAD

Fraser Armstrong, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Dane Coles, Asafo Aumua, Ricky Riccitelli, Tyrel Lomax, Alex Fidow, Kalolo Tuiloma, James Blackwell, Kane Le’aupepe, Liam Mitchell, Scott Scrafton, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Reed Prinsep, Devan Flanders, Ethan RootsM10 Cup StandoutM10 Cup Standout, Ardie Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi, TJ Perenara, Jamie Booth, Jonathon Taumateine, Simon Hickey, Brett CameronDan Hollinshead, Ngani Laumape, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Vince Aso, Danny Toala, Billy Procter, Salesi Rayasi, Wes Goosen, Jonah Lowe, Tima Fainga’anuku, Jordie Barrett, Chase Tiatia.

If you enjoyed this, feel free to give me a follow on Twitter @Nicholasfriedl3

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