Team Preview: The Hurricanes

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Thursday, February 15, 2018    Getty Images

Home: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Last year: Losing semifinalist


Halfbacks: Jamie Booth (Manawatu)*, Finlay Christie (Tasman)*, TJ Perenara (Wellington).
First fives: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki), Jackson Garden-Bachop (Wellington)*, TJ Va'a (Wellington), Ihaia West (Hawke's Bay)*.
Midfield: Vince Aso (Auckland), Ngani Laumape (Manawatu), Matt Proctor (Wellington), Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wellington).
Outside Backs: Jordie Barrett (Taranaki), Wes Goosen (Wellington), Ben Lam (Wellington), Jonah Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Manawatu), Julian Savea (Wellington).

Hookers: Asafo Aumua (Wellington)*, Dane Coles (Wellington), Ricky Riccitelli (Taranaki).
Props: Chris Eves (North Harbour), Alex Fidow (Wellington)*, Reg Goodes (Wellington), Ben May (Hawke's Bay), Toby Smith (Waikato)*, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen (Wellington).
Locks: James Blackwell (Wellington), Murray Douglas (Northland)*, Michael Fatialofa (Auckland), Sam Lousi (Wellington), Isaia Walker-Leawere (Wellington)*.
Loose Forwards: Gareth Evans (Hawke's Bay)*, Vaea Fifita (Wellington), Sam Henwood (Counties-Manukau)*, Reed Prinsep (Canterbury), Ardie Savea (Wellington), Brad Shields (Wellington), Blade Thomson (Taranaki).
*New Signing.


Game breaker:
Although the Hurricanes have an abundance of game-breakers and speedsters, Wes Goosen might be the most underrated of them all. Goosen’s form was so hot in 2017 that he ended the season starting on the left wing ahead of All Blacks star Julian Savea. With Nehe Milner-Skudder under an injury cloud this season, Goosen is sure to clock up plenty of game time for the Hurricanes. The South African-born speed merchant might not be the biggest wing in Super Rugby, but makes up for it with breath-taking pace and the ability to find gaps in even the tightest defence.

Sensational Shields:

After serving the Hurricanes gallantly since 2012, powerful loose forward Brad Shields will be wanting to go out on a high before he shifts to English club Wasps. Either playing at blindside flanker or No.8, Shields is a tireless worker around the park, thunderous defender and powerful ball-runner. He has also developed into a genuine leader at the Hurricanes and will provide a steady hand for the newcomers in the Hurricanes forward pack. Shields was an integral part of the Hurricanes inaugural Super Rugby win in 2016 and is sure to be at the forefront if the Hurricanes are to taste success again in 2018.

Young gun:
At an imposing 130kgs and with the running ability of a midfield back, 20-year-old prop Alex Fidow is set to be unleashed by the Hurricanes in Super Rugby 2018. Fidow had a standout 2017 for both the NZ Under 20s and the Wellington Lions. Fidow resembled a one-man wrecking ball during Wellington’s successful Mitre 10 Cup Championship campaign. With 47 defenders beaten and eight tries scored, no other forward in the competition matched Fidow’s attacking statistics. His devastating form in 2017 could be just a taste of what is to come in Super Rugby this season. 

The scoop:
The Hurricanes are undoubtedly one of the biggest title threats in 2018. They have retained the bulk of their squad from last season and added some real firepower in youngsters Alex Fidow and Asafo Aumua. The team will also be inspired to send off departing coach Chris Boyd and long-serving loose forward Brad Shields in style. The TJ Perenara-Beauden Barrett combination is perhaps the best inside halves pairing in the competition and could prove pivotal in leading the Hurricanes to their second Super Rugby title.