Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett will look to get the best out of Chris Eaton for the rest of the season after his first choice halfback, TJ Perenara, was yesterday ruled out of playing rugby again for up to six months after breaking his ankle in the 36-7 win over the Reds in a friendly game on the Sunshine Coast on Friday night.
Perenara has been one of the star performers for the Hurricanes this year and was unlucky not to make it into the All Blacks' wider training groups this month.
"It's really disappointing for him," Hammett told Sunday News.
"But he's a good kid, he works bloody hard, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's back earlier than all predictions. But even if he's back really early his season is certainly over from a Super Rugby perspective and more than likely the ITM Cup also."
Perenara had surgery to repair the ankle straight after the game on Friday night and Hammett was given a medical update yesterday morning, confirming that the halfback will be out for four to six months.
"That's the very early indications, but it's what we were given this morning," Hammett said.
The incident happened towards the end of the game, in a convincing win for the Kiwi side and an otherwise pleasing night for Perenara.
"He was scoring a try in the corner and just fell awkwardly with one of the opposition falling on his ankle" said Hammett.
"It is quite a major injury and obviously TJ was in quite a lot of pain."
But while it's a blow to the Hurricanes' chances of making the playoffs, Hammett says he and the team have to move on and he's confident that Eaton will take the team forward.
"Ironically, Chris Eaton was one of our outstanding players in the game," he said. "It's like all teams, you've got to deal with injuries. TJ had a bit of a spark and was having a great year, but Chris offers us different opportunities in terms of the speed of his pass.
"He is very good defensively and at setting line speeds. We've obviously got to move on quickly from that because that's a reality. If we're to keep going in this competition, it's going to be with Chris and others."
In the game, Eaton, Waisake Naholo, Arden Savea, Alapati Leiua, Fafili Levave and Perenara all scored tries for the Hurricanes, while Guty Shepherdson bagged the Reds' only five-pointer.
"It was set up on a really good defensive performance," said Hammett. "Sometimes these games can be quite scrappy and lots of points were scored. For us, we were pleased that lots of points were scored, but not against us.
"The big thing is having a high-intensity game where we're all together and we're playing our patterns and building on what we're trying to build on for the year," he said.
"The ideal situation would have been to play it next week but unfortunately that wasn't able to fit into both teams' calendars.
"The other thing that's really beneficial is that we had a new group of leaders having to drive the game plan. We had the ability to be able to bring over our assistant physio and trainer, so it grows the organisation and it grows the organisation apart from what happens on field."
Follow Hurricanes news on Twitter @dp_hurricanes
- © Fairfax NZ News
Who gets your vote as greatest All Black of all time?Related story: With Boks beaten, time for revenge over England