Cory Jane, Vito ready to strike for Hurricanes
Cory Jane's ankle passed "the earthquake test" while Victor Vito galloped freely as coach Mark Hammett's already sunny disposition brightened further at Hurricanes training yesterday.
As his squad basked in the glow of last weekend's 23-22 triumph over the Crusaders, Hammett confirmed All Blacks Jane and Vito would almost certainly return from injury layoffs against the Chiefs in the regular season finale in Wellington next Friday.
Jane has been sidelined since hurting his ankle against the Brumbies in May but Wellington's sports personality of the year used his Twitter account to break some good news after the 7.0-magnitude quake that hit the North Island on Tuesday night.
"On the plus side my ankle has past the earthquake test cos I flew up our stairs to the kids at pace," Jane wrote before backing that up by flying around Rugby League Park yesterday.
Vito also appears fully recovered after suffering medial ligament damage in his knee during the All Blacks' first-test win over Ireland in Auckland on June 9.
The bye week has also bought valuable time for Chris Eaton, who played 40 minutes at halfback against the Crusaders before succumbing to a pulled hamstring.
"If we had a game this weekend we suspect those boys probably would be ready," said Hammett, adding Bay of Plenty's Jamie Nutbrown could join the team next week as cover.
"That's still something that we're looking at, we're monitoring how Chris is."
Hammett said Frae Wilson would start in the No9 jersey should Eaton be ruled out.
The sixth-placed Hurricanes, who will bank four points for the bye, will be cheering on the Chiefs against the Crusaders tomorrow night while simultaneously plotting their downfall.
Victory for the table-topping Chiefs would leave the fifth-placed Crusaders on 52 points, unless they can bag one or two bonus points, while the Hurricanes will move to 53.
"You lie if you say you don't want them to tip the Crusaders up, that would be favourable for us. But ultimately whatever they do at the weekend, we still need to win the following weekend," Hammett said.
Rather than halting momentum, Hammett said the bye week was advantageous because it allowed the coaching staff extra time to formulate a game plan for the Chiefs.
Even if the Hurricanes do not make the top-six playoffs, the season will be considered a success but Hammett said his youthful squad were only scratching the surface of their potential.
"Oh mate, we're nowhere near it to be quite honest," he said.
"There's been massive improvements, every single one, including All Blacks. But there's still a long way to go in this group.
"They're humans, they'll be looking at the points board, that's natural.
"But we've talked about it and we're very clear that we've worked really hard for 32-odd weeks, and if we don't continue in the 33rd and the 34th week, well then playoffs, that's all it will be, a what if?"
The Dominion Post