Hammett takes calculated gamble with Hurricanes

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2012
FAIRFAX MEDIA

The Hurricanes gear up for Friday night's Super Rugby game against the Brumbies

Tusi Pisi
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
CALCULATED GAMBLE: Hurricanes first five Tusi Pisi in action.

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Rolling the rotation dice has cost the Hurricanes once already this season, but coach Mark Hammett says he has total faith in Samoan first five-eighth Tusi Pisi and young loose forward Brad Shields.

Nerves might be a tad frayed in the stands at Westpac Stadium tomorrow night as the Hurricanes take the field against the Brumbies.

With the playoff battle in the balance, the home side will take the field without Beauden Barrett in the No10 jersey for the first time this season and Faifili Levave watching on in his No1s.

Last time the Hurricanes rested two key players in second five-eighth Tim Bateman and prop Ben May they lost 47-38 to the Cheetahs.

It could be argued Hammett is taking an unnecessary risk against the Australian conference leaders, but he said yesterday a lot had changed since the week-six hiccup.

"Look, there's always a risk [in change] but we're a wee bit further down the track and there's a better understanding among the group now," he said.

"Brad, well the All Blacks selectors are pretty clear about his potential and we're excited about where he is, and Tusi is an international. I think it's quite a different scenario to the Cheetahs week."

Hammett said Barrett needed a rest after starting all 11 matches in his first full year of Super Rugby, second only in minutes to veteran captain Conrad Smith.

"We wouldhave given him a break earlier than this. In fact three weeks ago we wanted to give Beaudy a break, but Tusi did his calf, so it's about us looking after a very important person in our team.

"He's obviously on the bench and will still have an impact, but it's good to give him a week off, even mentally not having to run the ship continuously."

The same applies to Levave, who is a physical player and has shouldered a big load and will benefit mentally and physically from a complete break.

Hammett said Pisi's experience meant the change at No10 would not disrupt the side's patterns in attack or defence.

"We know Tusi plays a heck of a lot flatter game. [But] He's very experienced and the players said on Saturday that when he came on [against the Highlanders] he brought a very cool head.

"He sees space in the back field really well. I suppose he will change a wee bit [from Barrett] but it doesn't change how we want to play."

Pisi said he was not frustrated at his lack of game time since joining the side from Japan, due to Barrett's form, but was excited about his first start.

He hoped to play his natural game, which was to attack the line, and move that ball if conditions allowed.

Pisi, who kicked goals for Samoa during last year's Rugby World Cup was unsure whether he would take the shots against the Brumbies, or whether it would be fullback Andre Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Brumbies have elevated Zack Holmes to make his run-on debut at first five-eighth in a new halves combination with Ian Prior, who replaces Nic White at halfback.

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