Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper, true to his word, axed a number of his frontline players for their trip to Loftus Versfeld and an encounter with the Super 14 competition’s unbeaten defending champions, the Bulls.
Following defeats to the Cheetahs and Stormers in the opening weeks of their South African safari, Cooper promised changes … and he delivered.
Earlier this week Cooper said some of the key players “needed to have a look at themselves” and spoke of a sit-down among the group in which they “confronted a few issues on why we haven’t performed”.
Top of the list of players who felt the coach’s wrath is All Black scrumhalf Piri Weepu, who was dropped to the bench.
Young Tyson Keats will start in the No.9 jersey in one of six changes to the side that lost 13-37 to the Stormers last week.
Even more severe was the punishment for openside flank Scott Waldrom, who did not even make the matchday 22.
Also missing are lock Bryn Evans, wing David Smith and prop Jacob Ellison – while injured Cory Jane has returned to New Zealand after being knocked out cold in a sickening collision with Sireli Naqelevuki last week.
Andre Taylor will start at fullback, Alipati Leiua replaces Smith on the left wing, Jeremy Thrush gets his first start in the second row, after returning from shoulder surgery, and John Schwalger is back at loosehead prop.
On the bench Nick Crosswell is loose forward cover.
Cooper admitted that the tour is not going to get any easier.
“This is a tough country,” he said of the three-match road trip in South Africa.
“Admittedly, we haven’t played well. However, I have a lot of trust in this group that they can come back,” he said in a teleconference call, adding: “I have a lot of trusts in my management, that we have the right coaches here and management here to turn this around.”
The coach said he hopes the changes will help keep the players on edge, as they try to salvaging something from the tour.
After the trip to Pretoria the Hurricanes return home to face the Sharks and Crusaders, before they have a bye in Week Nine.
“When you make changes it puts everybody on edge. It’s very important this game. Our whole focus has been on the Bulls,” he added.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 David Smith.
Article courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet