An elbow injury to lock Jeremy Thrush is the main area of concern for the Hurricanes as they put the final touches on preparations for Friday night’s Super 14 semifinal against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Coach Colin Cooper originally named an unchanged starting XV for the third straight week ahead of Friday night’s all-Kiwi semi at Waikato Stadium.
However after Thrush was forced out of today’s training session in the capital, that may yet have to be revised.
Marc Hinton writes for Rugbyheaven NZ that the Hurricanes say they’ll monitor the injury – the same one that ruled him out of their round seven clash against the Sharks – over the next few days to determine the second-rower’s ability to withstand the rigors of the match.
“The doctor is not quite sure how bad it is; he’s not ruled out anyway,” Cooper said.
If Thrush is forced out, Bryn Evans will be promoted from the bench to take his place alongside Jason Eaton in the second row.
All going to plan, it will be the exact same 22 that took care of business last week against the Queensland Reds, and 21 of the 22 who battled the Chiefs a fortnight ago, also at Waikato Stadium.
That shows there’s an immense amount of faith that the Canes have the team to turn around that 8-16 defeat at Waikato Stadium in the penultimate week of round-robin play. As far as they’re concerned, it’s more about the method, than any need to tweak personnel.
The only doubt prior to Thrush’s untimely knock had been over a foot injury to flanker Scott Waldrom which forced him to sit out training yesterday.
However, the openside flanker has been cleared to take his place in a team that will very much be motivated by the memories of that disappointing night in Hamilton a fortnight ago.
“We went through a stage where there was competition. We went through a stage of continuing to create that competition,” said Cooper of his selection philosophy at this stage of proceedings. “Now it’s momentum and I guess you’re seeing that in our selections in the last three to four games.”
The match will be the 200th first-class game for hooker Andrew Hore.
Friday’s semifinal also continues a strong run of semifinal appearances by the Hurricanes in recent years.
This is their fifth semifinal in the last seven seasons, though they have only managed to win one of those playoff matches, back in 2006 when they got past the Waratahs in Wellington before losing the famous fog final to the Crusaders in Christchurch.
On the positive side of the ledger, their previous three semifinal defeats (as well as 2006′s final) have come at the hands of the Crusaders – a team for now out of the picture as they confront their own issues in the other semi against the Bulls in Pretoria.
HURRICANES: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu; 8 Rodney So’oialo (capt), 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger. Reserves: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 Zac Guilford.
CHIEFS: 15 Mils Muliaina (capt), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Toby Morland; 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 James McGougan, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Sona Taumalolo. Reserves: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Joe Savage, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 David Bason, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Sosene Anesi.Tweet