Daniel Kirkpatrick will make his Super 14 debut for the Hurricanes against the Waratahs in Saturday’s season opener at Westpac Stadium.
The Super 14 website reports that New Zealand U20 first five-eighth Kirkpatrick comes into the starting fifteen in place of Piri Weepu who failed a fitness test on the ankle he rolled at training on Wednesday.
He partners Alby Mathewson in the halves, with Willie Ripia coming into the playing 22 to fill the reserve halfback and first five-eighth role.
Kirkpatrick is one of two players in the run-on side along with hooker Dane Coles is one of two making their Super 14 debuts, while the starting forward pack also features two more first time Hurricanes in lock Bryn Evans who played for the Blues last year and blindside flanker Faifili Levave who was a Chief in 2008.
The team is captained by Rodney So’oialo at No.8 and includes eight Grand Slam winning All Blacks who toured Hong Kong and Europe at the end of last year.
Should they take the field, reserves Karl Lowe, Ged Robinson and Api Naikatini will also make their Super 14 debuts.
Backs reserve Jason Kawau dons the Hurricanes jersey for the first time after previously playing for the Highlanders in 2006 and 2007, while electric winger David Smith returns to the 22 after playing for the Hurricanes in 2007 and the Blues in 2008.
Expect a hard and fast season opener between two well balanced teams with plenty of attacking flair, especially out wide and in broken play.
These two teams like to keep the ball alive against each other and often cancel each other out with their all-out attacking tendencies, with 29 of the Hurricanes’ 38 tries against the Waratahs in Super Rugby history having been scored through the backs.
In Cory Jane and Sam Norton-Knight, both can call upon speed and flair from fullback, while both teams are well armoured with power in the midfield between Ma’a Nonu and Timana Tahu at second five-eighth and pace on the wings in the Hurricanes’ Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear and the Waratahs’ Lote Tuqiri and Lachie Turner.
The 2009 season opener between the Hurricanes and Waratahs will be the 15th Super Rugby clash between the two sides since 1996, with the Hurricanes in front 8-6 on the head-to-head ledger.
Saturday’s clash will be the eighth between the sides in New Zealand, with the Hurricanes having previously won six of seven games played against the Waratahs in home territory. The Waratahs’ sole win in New Zealand against the Hurricanes was in 2007 in Wellington (38-14), one of just three victories for them in the Super 14 that season.
The Waratahs won last year’s match against the Hurricanes 20-3, also in the first round. The Hurricanes’ three points against the Waratahs last year was their lowest score against any Super Rugby team since losing 11-0 to the Reds in 1999.
The Hurricanes can point to the closing stages of the inaugural Super 14 in 2006 for recent success against the Waratahs – beating them in consecutive weeks, 19-14 in the last round in Sydney and 16-14 in a thrilling semi-final at Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes also pipped the Waratahs 26-24 in 2005 in the wind in Wellington, while other memorable matches between the two sides include 2000′s 27-20 win in Sydney when the Hurricanes held on with 14 players after Jonah Lomu had been sent off for a dangerous tackle and in 2003 in Wellington when flying winger Lome Fa’atau crossed twice in an exhilarating 42-26 win.
The Hurricanes and Waratahs teams to meet in round one of the 2009 Super 14 on Saturday 14 February at Westpac Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm, are as follows:
1 John Schwalger,2 Dane Coles,3 Neemia Tialata,4 Bryn Evans,5 Jason Eaton,6 Faifili Levave,7 Scott Waldrom,8 Rodney So’oialo [c],9 Alby Mathewson,10 Daniel Kirkpatrick ,11 Hosea Gear,12 Ma’a Nonu,13 Tamati Ellison,14 Zac Guildford,15 Cory Jane
Reserves16. Ged Robinson,17. Jacob Ellison,18. Jeremy Thrush / Api Naikatini,19. Karl Lowe,20. Willie Ripia ,21. Jason Kawau,22. David Smith
1. Benn Robinson, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3. Al Baxter, 4. Dean Mumm, 5. Will Caldwell, 6. Ben Mowen, 7. Phil Waugh [c], 8. Scott Fava, 9. Luke Burgess, 10. Kurtley Beale, 11. Lote Tuqiri, 12. Timana Tahu, 13. Rob Horne, 14. Lachie Turner, 15. Sam Norton-Knight
Reserves16. Adam Freier, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Chris Thomson, 19. Wycliff Palu, 20. Brett Sheehan, 21. Daniel Halangahu, 22. Tom Carter, 23. Damien FitzpatrickTweet