All Blacks hooker Dane Coles has been named in the Hurricanes matchday squad that will take on the Sharks in their Super Rugby clash in Wellington on Saturday.
It’s the Hurricanes’ first home game of the 2020 season and comes off the back of a 26-23 win against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
Coles, who returns from injury, will start the game on the replacements bench, but says he’s excited at the potential of getting in some game time.
“It’s been a while, but I’m feeling in good nick. I have been working hard to get back out there and I’m looking forward to having a run,” he said.
Coles said coming back in time for ‘Opening Night’ is exciting.
“We love getting out there in front of our fans at Sky Stadium. Home games are pretty special,” he added.
Fellow All Black TJ Perenara will captain the side, which remains largely unchanged from last weekend.
Vince Aso will replace Billy Proctor at outside centre, while Scott Scrafton makes a return to the forwards. In the back-row, Reed Prinsep will start at number eight with Gareth Evans moving to openside, while Vaea Fifita makes his first start of the season.
Jackson Garden-Bachop gets his second start in a row at fly-half with Fletcher Smith back on the bench.
Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland said it’s a competitive environment in the team.
“We have an excellent squad. Whoever gets their opportunity this week needs to take it as there are a lot of boys lining up to get a crack,” he said.
The Sharks have scored more tries against the Hurricanes than any other South African side.
In a match up last year, the Hurricanes walked away with a 30-17 win, but Holland says it’s always a tough encounter.
“The Sharks are a physical side with a big kicking game – not too dissimilar from the style the Springboks adopted to win the World Cup,” he added.
“They’ve got a back three who will take opportunities we give them.”
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Fraser Armstrong Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Billy Proctor
Date: Saturday, February 15 Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington Kick-off: 19:05 local (06:05 GMT) Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Rebecca Mahoney (New Zealand) TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)