Hurricanes boast weapons across park

Highlanders loose forward Gareth Evans makes a break against the British & Irish Lions at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin in June last year. Evans will be looking to make an impact for the Hurricanes this season at No8. Photo: Getty Sport
Highlanders loose forward Gareth Evans makes a break against the British & Irish Lions at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin in June last year. Evans will be looking to make an impact for the Hurricanes this season at No8. Photo: Getty Sport
The New Zealand teams will line up with big expectations as usual when Super Rugby kicks off for them this weekend. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn assesses the chances of the four teams. The Highlanders will be assessed tomorrow.

 

BLUES

Another year and is it going to be another failed season for the Blues? The side made the playoffs in 2011 but since then has really struggled.

Looking at the team, there is plenty of star power - Sonny Bill Williams, the Ioane brothers, Blake Gibson, George Moala and the emerging Sam Nock at halfback.

But the issue with the Blues is they have too many guys who are the top of the tree one week and then sawdust the next. Consistency is the key to a team doing well. The Blues must simply do better week in, week out, to get further ahead.

They have lost some key forwards in Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua and also have a dozen guys out injured before the season has even started.

Coach: Tana Umaga

Key forward: Hooker James Parsons

Key back: First five-eighth Stephen Perofeta

Last year: Ninth

Prediction: Quarterfinals

 

CHIEFS

There are plenty of questions to ask about the Chiefs. They have lost Aaron Cruden, who was their main man for so long, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow will be missed.

Damian McKenzie is going to take the No10 jersey but will his rather carefree, random style be suited to Super Rugby, especially in the colder months?

Brad Weber is set to replace Kerr-Barlow but he was poor for Hawkes Bay last season after coming back from a broken leg.

The side still has class though with a solid tight five, including a rested Brodie Retallick, some good loose forwards and backs such as Charlie Ngatai and Anton Lienert-Brown.

New coach Colin Cooper will instil some discipline in the side as the Chiefs were heavily penalised under Dave Rennie.

Coach: Colin Cooper

Key forward: Lock Brodie Retallick

Key back: First five-eighth Damian McKenzie

Last year: Semifinals

Prediction: Ninth

 

CRUSADERS

The defending champion has basically the same side which peaked in the playoffs and won it all last year.

It has a quality forward pack dripping with All Blacks and, in Richie Mo'unga, a player who looks ready to take the next step.

Many have fallen in love with Mo'unga and at times it is over the top.

Ryan Crotty is a key man in the backline and outside him Jack Goodhue will look to back up a solid first year.

The team had a golden run in the playoffs, where it all went for them, and the coaching staff knows that will not happen again.

Too many good players mean the red and black mob has to be in serious consideration.

Coach: Scott Robertson

Key forward: Lock Sam Whitelock

Key back: Midfield back Ryan Crotty

Last year: Champion

Prediction: Semifinals

 

HURRICANES

The Hurricanes will as usual be interesting and have plenty of weapons across the park. There will be plenty of sub-plots - the return of Jordie Barrett, the demise or coming again of Julian Savea, the last stand of Brad Shields. Will Asafo Aumua get out of the KFC store?

Those in the South will watch how former Highlander Gareth Evans will fare. He will start at No8 and, after never really getting a long run in the Highlanders, he will want to make the most of his chance.

The Hurricanes have some real depth in the backs and their forwards can deliver some mongrel. Can rack up some big scores but need to win the close ones. Will want to send out coach Chris Boyd a winner.

Coach: Chris Boyd

Key forward: Flanker Ardie Savea

Key back: First five-eighth Beauden Barrett

Last year: Semifinals

Prediction: Champion

 

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