Hurricanes 2012 preview
Youngsters ready to step up
By Scott Mathie. Last Updated: February 21, 2012 1:06pm
Beauden Barrett: One of the rising stars at the Hurricanes
There has been much to lament for the Hurricanes fans as many feel they have lost the very heartbeat of their team.
Their star players have been streaming for the exits, leaving All Black centre Conrad Smith to pick up the pieces by carrying the captain's armband for the season.
Fellow All Blacks - and long-serving Hurricanes - Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Tana Umaga, Aaron Cruden, Hosea Gear and Andrew Hore have all gone in search of greener pastures leaving the franchise extremely vulnerable for this year's campaign.
They will have to rely on a crop of emerging youngsters, three of which have come from the 2011 world championship winning New Zealand Under-20 team - Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara and Brad Shields.
The impressive Cory Jane will provide the sparkle in the backline and will be aided by the offshore signings of the experienced centre Tim Bateman and Samoan fly-half Tusi Pisi.
Another positive for the Wellington-based franchise is that they have secured the services of All Blacks forwards coach, Mike Cron, who will be spending the majority of his time ironing out the scrum.
Coach Mark Hammett has a gargantuan challenge on his hands to make this team a competitive force this season.
With so many writing them off for the wooden spoon already, Hammett and his coaching staff will have the envious pleasure of working in a pressure-free environment, hoping to nurture their young talent to position themselves for a better prepared assault in 2013.
But with the type of player Hammett was, expect them to be an uncompromising bunch, inexperienced, but with loads of anger and energy.
Sale Sharks coach Tony Hanks' verdict
It should be a year too early to expect anything from the Hurricanes; this season will be all about rebuilding in the face of what has been a tumultuous few months off the field.
I look forward to seeing flanker Victor Vito building on his performances of last year; he has the potential to really make an outstanding contribution to the 'Canes.
Tony Hanks' prediction: Bottom half
Tony Hanks' player to watch: Dane Coles - with the departure of Andrew Hore to the Highlanders, it will be a great opportunity for the livewire hooker to make a mark in Super Rugby. He's a robust hooker who has a knack for scoring tries.