Hurricanes survive their 'longest day' with Army

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett sounded like a man on his last legs last night.

One can only imagine what his players felt like after a gruelling 12 hours of bonding and self discovery dubbed "the longest day".

The pain began at Rugby League Park in Newtown at 9pm sharp last night when some New Zealand Army drill instructors took charge of the Hurricanes squad.

It ended at 9am at the Trentham Army Base after arms, legs, lungs and minds had been stretched further than any rugby match will manage over the coming months of the Super Rugby season.

"I'm knackered," Hammett said yesterday. "Excuse me if I'm not thinking too straight right now, but I'm a bit short on sleep and the mind's not really functioning too well. I'd say the boys are feeling worse."

The Hurricanes squad, minus captain Conrad Smith and recently married Victor Vito, were split in to three groups for their gut busting night.

Their first task was an hour long army fitness session before being given one hour to assemble on the top of Mt Victoria.

From there was a bus ride to Stokes Valley where the real test of their mettle began.

"They walked basically, but carrying tyres, ammunition boxes, weighted bags, a log, a power pole, various things. It was a2 1/2-hour slog," Hammett said. "It rained and the terrain was testing so it got pretty tough."

With team management in an observation role, the players got no rest on arrival at Trentham.

They erected tents, performed an orienteering task, ensured their group's heavy jerry can did not touch the ground, pushed and pulled a vehicle and even wrote a 500 word essay.

Eventually they were allowed to eat breakfast and sleep for two hours before a group review their coach hopes will pay off during the season.

"It's about finding out who are the leaders, who has an awareness of others under adversity and stress and in a competitive environment with the other two teams," he said.

"It really was the longest day and we are looking at behaviours and reactions that can affect performance."

The Hurricanes will get their first on field gauge of the worth of their pre-season activities when they play the Blues in Masterton on Saturday.

Hammett's lineup won't feature any of his All Blacks, who will ease back to match play after a long test season.

That includes Smith who officially returns from his six-month sabbatical today to rejoin his Super Rugby franchise.

Halfback TJ Perenara, who played for the Barbarians in Europe, may also skip the first pre-season match.

However, All Blacks apprentice openside Ardie Savea will see game time in Masterton where both sides are expected to field players from their wider training squad.

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That will include Hawke's Bay prop Brendon Edmonds who has replaced Wellington's Eric Sione in the squad. Sione picked up a long-term knee injury late last year while playing sevens for his club side Northern United.

The Blues are expected to field high profile former rugby league star Benji Marshall during Saturday's match.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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