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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Super Rugby Preview
Hurricanes will blow in wind this season - Growden
Greg Growden and Brittany Mitchell
February 14, 2014
The Hurricanes have star power but may lack depth to mount a sustained challenge © Scrum.com
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Hurricanes' Super Rugby 2014 Squad

  • Squad: Mark Abbott, Beauden Barrett, Marty Banks, Tim Bateman, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks, Reggie Goodes, Cory Jane, Jack Lam, Alapati Leiua, Faifili Levave, James Marshall, Motu Matu'u, Hadleigh Parkes, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea, Julian Savea, John Schwalger, Brad Shields, Eric Sione, Conrad Smith, Chris Smylie, Andre Taylor, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Cardiff Vaega, Victor Vito
  • Hurricanes' Super Rugby 2014 fixtures

The Hurricanes have flattered to deceive throughout their Super Rugby history, traditionally boasting a strong squad featuring key All Blacks talent yet making the play-offs only six times, for one appearance in the grand final (the foggy 2006 decider); and they have not featured since 2009. Greg Growden says the Hurricanes are a chance this year as long as their impressive pivot, Beauden Barrett, is running the show, but they are unlikely to threaten because they lack talent and depth in several key positions.

Last season: 11th overall, fourth in New Zealand Conference; the Hurricanes were among the leading try-scoring sides in 2013, with 41, but they posted only 17 away from home. The Canes suffered a slow start to their 2013 campaign, losing their first two matches before a series of mixed results thereafter. Fans were happy with their efforts in defeating the Crusaders at home and pushing both finalists, but the concession of 30 points to the Kings, 34 to the Cheetahs and 44 to the Highlanders illustrates perfectly their weakness.

Jeff Wilson said of the Highlanders in 2013: "I don't know what to say about the Hurricanes because on paper they have a formidable team with a number of All Blacks, an exciting and attacking flair to their game, and experience across the side; they seem to have all the ingredients to challenge the best sides in Super Rugby. But inconsistency once again plagued their 2013 season." Read more ...

Russell Barwick and Greg Growden look at the New Zealand Super Rugby conference

Key Man: Beauden Barrett was one of the most important players for the Hurricanes throughout 2013, leading the backline in attack and scoring the most points for the side (186). A strong ball runner and outstanding attacker, he also made the second-most kick metres of the competition (5304) and dished six try assists to illustrate his development as an assured all-round playmaker. A man comfortable in the Test arena, the Canes will be glad he rejected overtures to play alongside his brother Kane at the Blues.

Key Stat: The Hurricanes have a 36-48-5 win-loss-draw record against New Zealand teams after a 2-6 run in 2013, when they lost their last five matches against their conference rivals. They must do better in their conference fixtures if they are to challenge for the finals.

Rising Star: Ardie Savea, young brother of Julian Savea, made his way into the Hurricanes side with a two-year contract but played only three matches in 2013. Savea, a star of the New Zealand Under-20 side who also enjoyed a productive ITM Cup campaign for Wellington Lions, subsequently travelled with the Test squad to Europe as an introduction to the All Blacks life, and he will have genuine hopes of making the starting jersey his own in the absence this year of Karl Lowe.

Super Rugby 2014: Team-by-team

© SANZAR (Image Supplied)

Season Preview: The Hurricanes have welcomed eight new faces to their side, several players joining after a successful ITM Cup campaign, alongside 26 players returning from the 2013 squad. A strong side in attack in 2013, they must work on their defence after conceding 457 points last season. They must make a better start to the campaign, as two consecutive losses in 2013 damaged their hopes, but two matches in South Africa (Sharks and Stormers) before a home fixture against the Brumbies does not make for an easy kick-off this year. Mark Hammett will come under pressure as coach if they don't challenge more strongly for the play-offs with his more balanced squad after two middling seasons

Greg Growden's Verdict: The Hurricanes are a chance as long as their impressive pivot, Beauden Barrett, is running the show; a man destined for a long career in All Blacks colours, Barrett has revitalised a long-time dormant province. Coach Mark Hammett has opted for change this year, bringing in eight new faces to a squad that includes eight All Blacks, three Maori All Blacks, and three members of the Manu Samoa Test team. But they are unlikely to threaten because they lack talent and depth in several key positions. Another "blowing in the wind" year for "blowing in the wind" Wellington.

Tip: Fourth in New Zealand conference

Finish: Eighth.


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