Hurricanes seek physical steel to firm style
February 19, 2013
Mark Hammett has plenty to smile about in 2013 © Getty Images
The Hurricanes have won back their supporters so Mark Hammett is clear to concentrate on the true target of any Super Rugby coach.
Hammett's roller-coaster relationship with his team's fans enters a third season, and he's promising more than the razzle-dazzle that was a hallmark of 2012.
The 2012 season was about healing wounds for Hammett, whom Hurricanes held in low esteem after his controversial first season at the helm. The Cantabrian's attempt to change the team's culture resulted in a standoff with senior players, prompting Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu to shift north to the Blues while Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear scuttled south to the Highlanders.
The departure of four All Blacks turned popular support against Hammett, but, crucially, he was left with a young, happy side with little to lose. The benefit last season was the adventurous way in which the Hurricanes played last year, scorching over for 58 tries - eight more than any other team. The adventure lifted them within two competition points of the play-offs.
Hammett would love to see more of the same in 2013, but he'll temper it with pragmatism to place emphasis on physicality in defence.
"There were a lot more aspects to our season last year outside of just winning," Hammett said.
"While winning remains No. 1, and should always be, there were other things. There's no doubt we'll start leaps ahead of where we were last year."
All Blacks prop Ben Franks has transferred from the Crusaders, supplying instant credibility to the scrum, while flanker Ardie Savea will be exciting if the muscles added in the off-season don't slow him down.
There are few other notable additions, although rising halfback TJ Perenara is fit to return after his broken ankle in mid-season last year stripped them of spark and organisation.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9