Hurricanes prepare for the South African heat
Durban's heat is the most intense Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith has experienced, but coach Mark Hammett said it wasn't effecting his judgement when he left openside Ardie Savea off the team sheet to play the Sharks on Sunday.
Smith, a veteran of eleven Super Rugby seasons, said the heat wave was creating challenging handling conditions not dissimilar to playing on a dewy night in New Zealand.
"It's pretty intense, probably worse than I've ever experienced it before and the times I've been here before it does alter the game a little," Smith said last night.
The temperature in Durban this week has been over 30 degrees and with humidity well into the 70s. While February is the hottest month in the coastal city, that's five degrees above average and the forecast is for 28 degrees when the match kicks off at 5pm local time.
"It's just your whole body, its covered in sweat, so it is quite unique," Smith said. "It looks to everyone [back home] it's a beautiful fine day and you should be able to play expansive rugby.
"But it's more the ball in contact and catching and passing the ball and all the little subtle features of the game where you think you can play really fast, it actually slows the ball down a little. You just have to take that split second to control the ball."
That's likely to suit the Sharks, who have named an unchanged side to the one that beat the Bulls 31-16 last weekend.
The prospects of a slower match may well have counted against Savea, whose surprise omission from the squad has been a hotly debated topic.
Hammett said wider training group flanker Adam Hill had got the nod on the bench due to his ability to better cover all three loose forward positions.
"Against a South African side its really important to have locking cover and with Brad [Shields] and Victor [Vito] being out we looked solely at Blade [Thomson] for that loose forward position, rather than as lock cover," he said.
"It meant from a bench perspective we needed someone who could cover six, seven and eight, so we feel Adam Hill is probably best to fill those three positions. Obviously Ardie is a pretty good player and he'll get his chance."
Savea wasn't the only surprise omission with the Crusaders and Blues also utilising players form their wider training groups.
Smith believed it was a trend that would likely continue as coaches realised the benefits of using a larger group of players over a long season.
"There's no point in picking players just because they're established, but they're not quite right or if there's other guys who are playing really well... coaches are figuring that out," he said..
"You have players who might be young, but if they are keen and have three good preseason matches under their belts then you may as well use them while they're running well."
Hurricanes: Marty Banks, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith (c), Hadleigh Parkes, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Mark Abbott, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, John Schwalger, Mark Reddish, Adam Hill, Chris Smylie, Alapati Leiua, James Marshall.
Sharks: SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (c), Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Stephan Lewies, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Heimar Williams, S'bura Sithole.