Hurricanes taking no risks with captain Dane Coles
If Dane Coles' calf does go again, it won't be in Waverley.
The Hurricanes captain's tenure began four games late last year, after his calf muscle went before the team's round one clash with the Brumbies.
It would be a stretch to describe Coles' calf problem as persistent but, unlike the team's other All Blacks, it's enough to keep him in cotton wool until the Super Rugby season-opener against the Sunwolves in Japan on February 25.
"We're just managing his return-to-play a little more closely than others'," Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said, after leaving Coles out of the side for Friday's preseason clash with the Crusaders at Waverley's Border Rugby Club.
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"He's got a history of calfs and stuff like that so we're just making sure that with him, his return-to-play protocol is just a little bit slower than perhaps the guys that haven't got a history of chronic injury and are a little bit younger and return a little bit quicker.
"He doesn't feel a need, like Conrad [Smith] didn't feel a need in the past, to play in preseason games. He's been going through a return-to-play protocol that will see him go to Tokyo next week and everyone's comfortable with that."
Leni Apisai is among the Hurricanes' back-up hookers but is at least two weeks away from playing, due to a hamstring injury. That's seen James O'Reilly drafted into the squad and he'll start the match, before being replaced by Ricky Riccitelli.
Boyd's plan is to field different XVs in each half of the match, with three blokes - Ben May, Hugh Renton and Jonah Lowe - on a shortened reserves bench.
Prop Reggie Goodes is recovering from the head knock he copped against the Blues on February 5 and began running on Wednesday, however no date has been set for his return. Lock Sam Lousi has a shoulder injury and Boyd hopes he'll be available for selection in the team to host the Rebels on March 4.
O'Reilly's not the only injury-replacement starting on Friday, with Chris Smylie set to sport the No.9 jersey. This will mark a third stint at the Hurricanes for the 34-year-old, who went to play in Italy following the team's loss to the Highlanders in the 2015 final.
Smylie will remain with the squad for as long as TJ Perenara's back-ups Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (hamstring) and Kylem O'Donnell (ankle) are unable to operate at 100 per cent.
"He's referred to here as 'uncle' and certainly in the Polynesian community uncle is a term of endearment and he's well thought-of here. He's a real trouper and he won't let us down," said Boyd of Smylie.
Avoiding serious injury is the Hurricanes' main goal on Friday, after star lock Vaea Fifita was stretchered off with ankle ligament damage at last weekend's Brisbane Global Tens.
That'll be easier said the done, given how keenly fought the tackle area is likely to be.
"It's a big of a signature of [Crusaders coach] Scott Robertson's coaching. I've coached with and against Razor for a bit now, so I think the contest at the breakdown will certainly be important and we'd expect both sides to go hard into that area," Boyd said.
Hurricanes first/second-half line ups: Jordie Barrett/Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Lam/Cory Jane, Vince Aso/Matt Proctor, Pita Ahki/Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen/Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett/Otere Black, Chris Symlie/TJ Perenara, Toa Halafihi/Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea/Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields/Reed Prinsep, Mark Abbott/Michael Fatialofa, Isaia Walker-Leawere/James Blackwell, Mike Kainga/Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James O'Reilly/Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila/Chris Eves. Reserves: Ben May, Hugh Renton, Jonah Lowe.
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Ere Enari, Whetu Douglas, Matt Todd, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Tim Perry. Reserves: Joe Moody, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Luke Romano, Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea, Jed Brown, Jordan Taufua, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, David Havili, Sione Fifita, Sean Wainui, Manase Mataele, Marty McKenzie.
- Dominion Post