Super Rugby
Season Review: Hurricanes
RUGBY

Season Review: Hurricanes

The Super Rugby finalists are settled for 2014 but what about the teams that missed out? Emma Stoney reviews where it went wrong (and right) for those New Zealand teams now watching on.

Final placing

Fourth in the New Zealand conference and 7th overall with 41 points . This is the highest finish by the Hurricanes in four years under Mark Hammett, however they had the talent to finish much higher.

 

The good

Switching Alapati Leiua from wing to second five-eighth. Leiua was a reluctant convert but absolutely thrived at the heart of the action. His explosive running, ability to slip tackles and his strength on defence were missed in the final weeks of the season when he was injured.

Beauden Barrett. The All Black has matured into a fine first five-eighth and has probably been the form player in that position in New Zealand this year. His decision to stick with the Hurricanes for the next two years is a huge, particularly if TJ Perenara re-signs with the franchise as well.

Ardie Savea. There were a few raised eyebrows early in the season when Savea was left cooling his heels on the sidelines after being taken as an apprentice on the All Blacks end of year tour. But he would have been hard-pushed to play better than Jack Lam was at the time. When Savea got his chance he proved his worth and will have to shoulder a bigger burden next year with Lam heading to English club Bristol.

Doing the double over the Crusaders. They used to be the Hurricanes' bogey team. The rivalry is fierce so anytime the Hurricanes win in Christchurch is one to savour. The win at Westpac Stadium also left the seven-time champions smarting.

The 45-8 win at home against the Chiefs. That was Hurricanes rugby at its best - scything counter-attacks and offloading that left the defending champions chasing shadows.

 

The bad

Finding ways to lose close games they should have won. The Hurricanes did that against the Stormers in Cape Town and the Highlanders in Dunedin and in Wellington.  That latter defeat came back to bite them badly.

Blowing a 24-7 lead against the Waratahs. Another frustrating night for coach Mark Hammett as his side piled on the tries in the first 27 minutes but then failed to put the foot on the throat, fell asleep and lost 39-30.


The crowds at Westpac Stadium. The numbers turning out to watch the Hurricanes at home as been in decline for a number of years now. It must be dispiriting for players to see banks of yellow seats instead of fans, especially given the largely entertaining matches that have been played at home this year.

 

The ugly

Missing the playoffs again. For a team that boasts a back line that includes All Blacks Perenara, Barrett, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane and Julian Savea and Samoan international Leiua and international forwards in Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito, Lam and Faifili Levave, not making the playoffs is a failure. Hammett may have changed the team culture in his four years in Wellington but he has not got them into the finals which really should have been the bare minimum this year with the talent at his disposal.

 

Standout player

Alapati Leiua. His conversion to second-five was a masterstroke. He kept defences guessing, got across the gain line virtually every time he got the ball and opened up space for others to exploit. He will be missed next year, although if Ma'a Nonu returns to the capital as expected that will help fill the hole.

 

What needs to happen next year

New coaches Chris Boyd and John Plumtree are at the helm. They know making the playoffs is a must. They are losing good players in Leiua, Levave, Lam, Tim Bateman and Andre Taylor. The signing of Rebels back Jason Woodward, a Wellingtonian, offsets the departure of Taylor and if they get Nonu over the line as well that will please the fans.

Find an imposing lock. If the Hurricanes can find an imposing lock like Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock that would be a huge boost. The Hurricanes forwards have not been bad this year but having a bigger presence in the second row would strengthen the pack further.

Win on the road. The Blues must learn how to replicate their Eden Park form on the road otherwise it will be another long, fruitless season. 

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