Rugby: Perenara won't be burdened in second season

TJ Perenara. Photo by Getty
TJ Perenara. Photo by Getty
Don't bother trying to float the second-season syndrome theory to Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara.

The 21-year-old doesn't buy into the belief that after a rookie excels in their first season they are on course for a lull in their next.

Perenara was one of the finds of the Super Rugby competition last year before an ankle injury in a mid-season friendly against the Reds in June ruled him out for the remainder of 2012.

But he is now raring to go and will begin the season in the No 9 jumper for the Hurricanes when they host the Blues at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

He said he had heard a few whispers about the dreaded second-season syndrome.

"I think it's all down to the individual," he said. "If the individual thinks about it and lets it curse them then I guess it will. But I don't think it is a curse, some people just play badly in their second season. I don't think anyone tries to play badly, but it's definitely not on my mind and I will just hopefully get out there and do the job for the boys."

Perenara and first-five Beauden Barrett were arguably the most exciting inside back combination in the competition last year but they were an unknown quantity before the season got under way.

That won't apply this year, though, with Barrett having made his All Black debut last year there will be plenty of footage for teams to analyse.

Perenara played in all three of the Hurricanes' pre-season games and said there was a different air about Barrett's play this year.

"He's a lot more of a leader. He's always sort of been a leader but now he's got so much more knowledge than he had last year. He's brought everything he's learned last year with the All Blacks into our team and he's not shy to use that and teach people stuff.

"The best thing about Beauds is he's not cocky. He doesn't think he's better than anyone else. He's learned something and he's prepared to teach other people that so it's only good for us."

The Hurricanes have experienced little player turnover from last year's squad and have been able to name a near first-choice backline for Saturday's game with only Cory Jane unavailable due to a season-ending knee injury suffered three weeks ago.

"It's always good having regular players in," Perenara said. "You get a good relationship between players where you can find continuity and get to know each other and get to know each other's running lines, how each other plays when they're under pressure and how they react. So the more time we can spend with the same group of guys the better it is."

Flying fullback Andre Taylor looks primed to set the Cake Tin alight again this year, while the Hurricanes have an ultra-reliable midfield in the form of Tim Bateman and Conrad Smith, with Julian Savea and Alapati Leiua keen to patrol the flanks.

While the Hurricanes have built up their combinations during the past year, the Blues backline features positional shifts, new recruits and a debutant.

Halfback Piri Weepu will play his 100th Super Rugby game this weekend, while wing Frank Halai will make his maiden appearance in the competition.

First-five Chris Noakes has been picked to run the cutter for the Blues, while Rene Ranger will play at centre after making a name for himself on the wing previously.


Hurricanes: Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Brad Shields, Karl Lowe, Victor Vito, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Reggie Goodes, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Reynold Lee-Lo

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Jackson Willison, Baden Kerr, Bryn Hall, Brendon O'Connor, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Quentin MacDonald.