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2023 Super Rugby Preview - Hurricanes

Updated: Feb 2

If you're being totally honest with yourself, you'll admit that the Hurricanes are a team with a long history of choking, thanks to a lack of dominance in the tight-five forwards. However, is this reputation finally being shed? The 2023 Hurricanes side appears to be a team, that is merely a few parts away from clicking into a proper world-class side.\

Josh Moorby was the Hurricanes' top try-scorer for 2022, with nine tries. Photo: Max Sharp.

While said parts that need disposing of, speak for themselves, there's a lot to celebrate regarding the team's long-term future, especially with young men given the keys to the kingdom in the Hurricanes' spine. Let's analyse the Hurricanes' squad for the 2023 season, to examine their chances at a title.

New Signings for the Hurricanes:

Jacob Devery

Age: 24 years old

Position: Hooker

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Hawke's Bay

In 2022 the Hurricanes' injury crisis and high covid cases saw nine hookers play for the team. Jacob Devery, despite playing just twice for them in 2022 before his own injury, has been a huge winner, however. With massive potential evident for some time; Devery has finally received a full-time Super Rugby contract, despite his short-term deal in 2022 leading to an injury that saw him miss rugby for the rest of the year. After a debut for Hawke's Bay aged 18, the 24-year-old's long-awaited test debut is even closer now.

Peter Lakai

Age: 19 years old

Position: Number 8

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Wellington

Peter Lakai (second-from-left) was a nominee for the 2022 Duane Monkley Medal; awarded to the best player in the Bunnings NPC each season. Photo: Max Sharp.

In his first-ever season for Wellington, Lakai was a nominee for the Duane Monkley Medal. Although Bryn Gatland rightfully won, this speaks volumes of Lakai's limitless potential. Though perhaps a bit short for a number 8, this didn't stop Ardie Savea from becoming the world's best in the position. Lakai is here to terrify opposing defences long-term.

Logan Henry*

Age: 26 years old

Position: Halfback

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Manawatu

While the wee asterisk is there to denote the fact that Logan has not been officially announced as a full replacement, look for the news to arrive. TJ Perenara has been ruled out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, while Richard Judd is in the USA. Henry is currently in the wider training squad and had a fine debut in 2022, so look for an official signing to come soon, he's a great player.

Brett Cameron

Age: 26 years old

Position: First-Five

Test Caps: 1 test

Previous Club: Kamaishi Seawaves (Japan)

The All Blacks selectors' sad lack of faith in Stephen Perofeta, leaves us with two possibilities. One; Aidan Morgan announces himself as the Hurricanes' first-choice 10, or less likely, we see former All Black, Brett Cameron, play completely out of his skin, to beat Damian McKenzie to a test-level re-call. A bit of a left-field call... but so was his 2018 test debut.

Riley Higgins

Age: 20 years old

Position: Centre

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Wellington

Clearly a future All Black, but how high is his ceiling exactly? With Higgins' short-term deal from 2022 now a full contract, it will be interesting around how he fits in. With Jordie Barrett wanting to play 12 and former All Black Peter Umaga-Jensen capable too, Higgins may look to play matches at 13 as well.

Kini Naholo

Age: 23 years old

Position: Winger

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Crusaders

Having tipped Kini Naholo as an All Black bolter for 2022, I was disappointed to see him play just a single match for the Crusaders that season.

Having been a wrecking ball for Hastings Boys' High School in 2017, media hype has derailed after injuries delayed Naholo's progress. The Hurricanes, however, have not lost faith as the Chiefs and Crusaders did. A true talent with ball-in-hand, Naholo was not the potential All Black bolter I examined ahead of 2022, but remains a promising player.

Daniel Sinkinson

Age: 21 years old

Position: Winger

Test Caps: uncapped

Previous Club: Waikato

If there's one thing the 'Canes do best, it's sign flashy wingers for the highlight reels. Sinkinson, can do exactly that, with 7 tries from 11 games in 2022 for Waikato; while he ranked 12th in the competition for metres run, with 835 off 82 carries. With the team carrying seven outside backs, game time might not be easy, but Sinkinson will still be a great pickup.

Three Key Losses for the Hurricanes:

Alex Fidow

Age: 25 years old

Position: Prop

Test Caps: uncapped

Destination: Souths Logan Magpies (Australia)

Wow. One of the late 2010s' most promising props, at just 25, has now converted codes to play Rugby League in the 2023 Queensland Cup competition. Wow. It was one thing for Fidow to play with North Harbour in 2022, lining up a possible Moana Pasifika transfer, but to lose him to another sport entirely, is worrying. NZ Rugby needs to keep its athletes, to grow the game.

Blake Gibson

Age: 27 years old

Position: Flanker

Test Caps: uncapped

Destination: Tokyo Sungoliath (Japan)

After spending 2015-2021 with the Blues, Blake Gibson switched to the Hurricanes in 2022; ahead of his long-term shift to Japan. Photo: Max Sharp.

Another great signing that the Hurricanes have botched. Considering that Gibson was once captain of the Blues and the Hurricanes' first-choice blindside for 2022, it's rather odd that he's the player making room for Peter Lakai. Gibson, called into the All Blacks without a cap in 2017, is a player that the Hurricanes simply should not have let go.

Wes Goosen

Age: 27 years old

Position: Winger

Test Caps: uncapped

Destination: Edinburgh (Scotland)

Many of the Hurricanes loyalists will be sad to see Goosen leave after his 68 games for the franchise. The Springboks, however, won't be fussed at all. The All Blacks are no longer entitled to pick Goosen, but the Springboks are, meaning there is still the chance for Goosen to reach the heights of international rugby.

A Possible First-Choice XV for the Hurricanes:

  1. Pouri Rakete-Stones

  2. Asafo Aumua

  3. Tyrel Lomax

  4. Dominic Bird

  5. James Blackwell

  6. Devan Flanders

  7. Ardie Savea (c)

  8. Peter Lakai

  9. Cam Roigard

  10. Aidan Morgan

  11. Julian Savea

  12. Jordie Barrett

  13. Bailyn Sullivan

  14. Josh Moorby

  15. Ruben Love

Full Hurricanes Squad for 2023:

*denotes newly-signed player.

**denotes that Henry has trained with the squad and is expected to be announced as TJ Perenara's full-time replacement.

Italics denote a test-capped player.

+ denotes a player ruled out for the season due to injury.

Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Jacob Devery*

Props: Owen Franks, Tyrel Lomax, Tevita Mafielo, Xavier Numia, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Pasilio Tosi

Locks: Dominic Bird, James Blackwell, Caleb Delany, Justin Sangster, Isaia Walker-Leawere

Loose Forwards: Devan Flanders, Te Kamaka Howden, Brayden Iose, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Tyler Laubscher, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea

Halfbacks: Jamie Booth, Logan Henry**, TJ Perenara+, Cam Roigard

First-Fives: Brett Cameron, Aidan Morgan

Midfielders: Riley Higgins*, Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, Peter Umaga-Jensen

Outside Backs: Jordie Barrett, Ruben Love, Josh Moorby, Kini Naholo, Salesi Rayasi, Julian Savea, Daniel Sinkinson

Ever since the exit of Beauden Barrett (pictured by Max Sharp in 2019), the Hurricanes have lacked a dominant first-five. Can Aidan Morgan or Brett Cameron pull off a miracle and answer this problem?

Potential MVP: Ardie Savea

Potential Top Points Scorer: Jordie Barrett

Potential Top Try-Scorer: Bailyn Sullivan

Likely Finishing Place in 2022:

Quarter-Finals. The men from the capital are missing the most important thing, a world-class Head Coach to take them to that next level; Jason Holland is an Assistant Coach at heart. After all, that's how he's earned all of his trophies. With just two remaining players born in the 1980's, this is a young team. Players born in the 2000s are flooding the Hurricanes' squad now, their long-term future being secure, is a given. Holland however, hasn't had the same win rate as his predecessors. The Head Coach's win percentage of 54.76% is by no means bad, but it certainly isn't John Plumtree's 72.22% or Chris Boyd's 76.06% at all.

Regardless of their final placing, the Hurricanes will remain a highly entertaining team for the highlight reels which bring in new fans, as all of their tries in 2022 showcased.

Holland has been recruiting plenty of great picks for a successor, while the likelihood of him becoming an Assistant for the possible Scott Robertson All Blacks coaching staff, is high; Robertson mentioned getting Holland on board for the 2020 application. The Hurricanes' young team will require a few seasons of hit-outs, but my goodness their long-term potential is mouthwatering. 2023, is the beginning of a build towards a 2026 and onwards dynasty, with several titles to come as this bunch reach the peak of their powers.

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