Concussed Conrad Smith may be grounded
Conrad Smith's head will need to quickly clear if he is to board the plane to Brisbane with his team-mates on Wednesday.
The Hurricanes captain is in doubt for the team's next match against the Reds after suffering concussion during Saturday night's 34-20 loss to the Blues at Westpac Stadium.
Smith was taken from the field by team doctor Theo Dorfling after colliding with opposite Rene Ranger in the 70th minute, and didn't return.
That's because the 31-year-old failed the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) introduced to Super Rugby this season.
And though coaches Mark Hammett and Alama Ieremia said Smith seemed in good health in the hours after the match, they will not get the final say on his fitness to fly.
That will fall to Dorfling, who will oversee a staggered recovery programme that is now mandatory, and a psychometric test later in the week.
"There are five steps in the test," Dorfling explained yesterday. "Each day they do a level up and they must be symptom-free each day when they come to see us before doing the next step.
"Conrad could be back playing this weekend as long as he passes his tests."
However, Smith's recovery is complicated by the fact that the Hurricanes fly out midweek.
"No, he won't be cleared to play when we fly out on Wednesday, but he could be cleared before the match," Dorfling said. "That's a call we'll have to make on Tuesday. If we think he's likely to be fit then he'll probably travel, but that's for the coaches to decide."
Smith was unavailable for comment yesterday as he recovered, but could be forgiven for taking a cautionary approach. He has some history with head knocks, revealing after a concussion in 2010 that he'd blacked out when taking the ball into contact.
"I haven't been too bad. I've had the odd one through the years, but you don't want to get to that stage [where it's regular]," he said at the time. "You don't want to get a few in a row because that's when the serious stuff comes into it."
Smith's had his share of nasty injuries in recent years with a detached retina last year, a badly broken nose in 2011 and the 2010 concussion.
Hurricanes assistant coach Ieremia said it was impossible to say whether Smith would be available this week.
"I talked to him after the game and he said he was fine. He could remember everything that happened but he was just a little bit dazed at the time.
"He seemed positive after the game, but he has to go through the tests."
Ieremia said the prospect of who would captain the side in his absence hadn't been discussed. The Hurricanes do not have an official vice-captain this season, relying instead on a leadership group to back up the skipper.
Ieremia was confident the squad had enough midfield options to cope should their centre be ruled out.
"Alapati is an option, we have Rey [Lee-Lo] there as well who brings a different dimension. We have the centre area covered well but it's a matter of waiting to see how Snakey pulls up."
A decision on two other Hurricanes returning from concussion in the team's final preseason match is more imminent.
Dorfling said wing Matt Proctor and prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen were both nearing the end of their recovery period and were likely to be passed fit for selection.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni said the first-up crowd of 10,662 had been about 2000 below what the franchise had budgeted for.
Though it was "disappointing", Te Puni said there were a number of factors that affected the figure.
One was a clash with the Mission Estate event in Hawke's Bay which a number of season members had signalled they were attending.
Some fans had likely stayed home to watch the ODI between New Zealand and England on television, something that highlighted the difficulties of Super Rugby's February kick-off.
The crowd had been in line with the attendance at the corresponding Hurricanes-Blues match last season, he said.
The Dominion Post