Remembering the Hurricanes class of 2016

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It took the Hurricanes over 20 years to lift their first title, but they did it in style with a sensational 20-3 win over the Lions in front of their home fans. We remember their starting line-up from that game.

15: James Marshall

A dependable player who can cover multiple positions in the backline, James Marshall made the 15 jersey his own during his first stint with the Hurricanes between 2013-2016. Solid under the high ball and dangerous on the counterattack, Marshall started at fullback in both the 2015 and 2016 finals. He spent two seasons at London Irish following the Hurricanes maiden title triumph before returning to the Wellington-based side in 2019 where he has been sighted more often in the 10 jersey than the 15 one.  

14: Cory Jane

An all-time great of Hurricanes rugby, the 2016 final was undoubtedly the highlight of Jane’s time in the yellow and black jersey. In just the 6th minute of the final, it looked like Jane had scored when he latched onto a Beauden Barrett cross-kick and dived over in the corner. After a lengthy TMO stoppage, the try was scratched out due to an earlier knock on. Jane wasn’t to be denied the opening try of the final though as he intercepted a kick from Lionel Mapoe to score in the 21st minute. Jane retired following the 2017 season with 123 appearances and is now on the side’s coaching staff.

13: Matt Proctor

Matt Proctor had huge shoes to fill in 2016 by stepping into the number 13 jersey which had been occupied by Conrad Smith for the previous decade. Proctor flourished with the additional responsibility and game time. Sound on defence and shrewd on attack, Proctor was cut from the same cloth as his legendary predecessor. He played the last of his 59 games for the Hurricanes at the end of the 2019 season and now plies his trade for the Northampton Saints.  

12: Willis Halaholo

Halaholo barely featured in his first season with the Hurricanes in 2015 sitting behind Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith in the pecking order. The 2016 season could have been much the same for Halaholo as he started the season on the bench. By the end of the season, Halaholo’s class had shone through and he was a first pick for the final. A genuine game-breaker and ferocious defender, Halaholo provided the fireworks alongside the steady hand of Matt Proctor. The 2016 final was to be Halaholo’s final game for the Hurricanes before heading off to become a cult-hero for the Cardiff Blues.

11: Jason Woodward

It says a lot about Jason Woodward’s form in 2016 that he kept All Blacks flyer Julian Savea on the bench until the 70th minute of the final. A magnificent finisher and strong in the air, Woodward could capably fill any of the outside back positions. Like Willis Halaholo, Woodward’s Hurricanes career would only span two years. Following the 2016 final victory, Woodward took up a contract in the UK where he has since become a consistent performer in the English Premiership.

10: Beauden Barrett

Despite long being considered one of the finest playmakers in the game, a title had eluded Barrett until 2016. Barrett was at his best in the final with 15 points and a fine tactical display to secure the club’s maiden crown. The New Plymouth-born pivot was deservedly named Man of the Match in the final and continued with the Hurricanes until 2019. He leads the Hurricanes all-time scoring tally with 1,238 points and made shockwaves by signing for arch-rivals the Blues for the 2020 season.

9: TJ Perenara

The dynamic and almost telepathic combination between halfback TJ Perenara and first five-eighth Beauden Barrett was one of the keys to the Hurricanes success in 2016. Whether sparking a long-range attack, executing a set-piece play, or clearing the ball from danger, Perenara and Barrett were fully in sync and unshakeable throughout the whole campaign. Perenara has racked up over 120 games for the Hurricanes and is still just as important to the team today as what he was in 2016.

8: Victor Vito

Another all-time great of Hurricanes rugby, the 2016 final really was a fairytale finish for dynamic loose forward Victor Vito. The final not only marked the first Super Rugby title of Vito’s career but also his 100th (and last) appearance for the club. It finished a remarkable five-year period in Vito’s career where he lifted two Rugby World Cup titles and one Super Rugby crown. He has gone onto become a fan favourite at French club La Rochelle where he still plays to this day.

7: Ardie Savea

A player that doesn’t have an off switch, Ardie Savea proved his worth as an international class player for the Hurricanes in 2016. Immensely dangerous with ball in hand, it was Savea’s work off the ball that really turned heads in the Hurricanes title-winning season. Savea was every never far from the action and put in a mountain of work at the breakdown and on defence to play a vital role in the Hurricanes maiden title success. He was rewarded with an All Blacks debut later in 2016 and has gone onto play 44 Tests for the team in black.

6: Brad Shields

Brad Shields was the glue in the Hurricanes world-class loose forward trio in 2016. While Vito and Savea stole most of the headlines, Shields was equally as important in his role as the enforcer, ball carrier and third jumper in the lineout. Shields played 100 games for the Hurricanes between 2012-2018 before making the step-up to international rugby for England where he has played 9 Tests.

5: Michael Fatialofa

Debut seasons don’t get much better than they do for then rookie Michael Fatialofa. After five years of domestic toil for Southland and Auckland, Fatialofa came of age in his first year of Super Rugby in 2016. He made 15 appearances throughout the season and formed a strong combination with Vaea Fifita in the second row. In January 2020, Fatialofa suffered a serious neck injury while playing for the Worcester Warriors. Since the life-changing injury, Fatialofa has made slow and steady progress and is now able to walk unaided but still has a long road of rehabilitation and recovery ahead.

4: Vaea Fifita

A player bursting at the seams with x-factor and youthful exuberance, Fifita was another player to come of age in 2016. After being a bit-player in 2015, Fifita played all 18 games in 2016, scoring three tries and forging rock-solid partnership with Michael Fatialofa. The Tongan-born powerhouse now splits his time between blindside flanker and lock for the Hurricanes and has made 12 Test appearances for the All Blacks.

3: Ben May

A veteran of the New Zealand rugby scene, Ben May made his first-class debut for the now defunct Nelson Bays all the way back in 2004. Able to play both sides of the scrum, the man known as ‘Bammer’ has been a consistent performer for every team he has turned out for in his 17-year career. May’s experience and reliability was to the fore in the 2016 campaign with 16 appearances throughout the season.

2: Dane Coles

A team cannot win a competition as hard as Super Rugby without inspirational leadership and Dane Coles’s captaincy was exactly that in 2016. The well-rounded hooker led with his actions in his first season in charge of the Hurricanes. A full-throttle player, Coles’s troops followed suit as the Hurricanes tore through the competition and lifted their maiden title in front of 39,000 fans at Westpac Stadium (now Sky Stadium).

1: Loni Uhila

An instant cult hero, Loni ‘Tongan Bear’ Uhila brought the crowd to its feet every time he touched the ball in his debut season for the Hurricanes in 2016. Known for his mohawk, rampaging running, and silky ball skills, Uhila was no slouch at scrum time or in the tight exchanges. Uhila only went onto play 24 times for the Hurricanes between 2016-17 and will forever be remembered as a fan favourite.