Dane Coles has been named on the bench for the Hurricanes. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
By Jake Beleski
It took four long months, but Hurricanes captain Dane Coles is set for a return to action in Friday night’s quarter-final against the Brumbies, in Canberra.
Coles hasn’t featured for the defending champions since the round four clash with the Highlanders, but his concussion symptoms have subsided enough for the dynamic hooker to be named on the bench.
Coach Chris Boyd said it would be unfair to expect too much from Coles after such a long layoff, but expects him to be thrust into the action after 50 or 60 minutes, depending on how the match is progressing.
“We know he will bring enthusiasm and energy, and how quickly he runs out of puff will be interesting to see.
“He’s a competitor and he’ll bring that to whatever his role is when he comes onto the field.”
Halfback TJ Perenara will captain the side until Coles gets onto the field.
The other notable change from last week’s win over the Crusaders sees Beauden Barrett return at first five-eighth.
Barrett missed the previous match with a sinus infection but has recovered to take his place in the starting line-up.
His younger brother Jordie will again wear the No 13 jersey, with regular centre Vince Aso still battling a groin injury.
Boyd said Aso was likely to join the team if they get through to next week’s semi-finals.
“He’s going through return to play protocols in Wellington at the moment.
“He may catch a plane to join us if we get through — we’re reasonably optimistic he’s tracking in the right direction.”
Boyd was comfortable leaving Jordie in the unfamiliar position of centre, and said having another week to train in the position would be hugely beneficial.
“It was pretty tough because we probably defend slightly differently than Jordie ever has before when he’s been in the midfield.
“I thought he played remarkably well given the change in philosophy around the way we defend . . . I think he should cope fine.”
The last time the two teams met in Canberra was in round one of 2016, when the Brumbies thrashed the Hurricanes 52-10.
Boyd said that performance was “embarrassing”, and he was expecting a much-improved attitude this time around.
The Hurricanes got the better of the Brumbies in Napier earlier this season, producing a dominant second half to run away 56-21 winners.
The two clubs have played twice before in playoff matches with the Brumbies winning 33-20 in Canberra in 1997 and the Hurricanes winning 29-9 in Wellington in 2015.
Nehe Milner-Skudder, Wes Goosen, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (c), Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Mark Abbott, Jeff To’omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May. Reserves: Dane Coles, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Reed Prinsep, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Cory Jane.
Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Andrew Smith, James Dargaville, Wharenui Hawera, Joe Powell, Jordan Smiler, Chris Alcock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter (c), Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Reserves: Robbie Abel, Ben Alexander, Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Blake Enever, Jarrad Butler, Tomas Cubelli, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Christian Lealiifano.
Kick off: 9.35pm, Friday, GIO Stadium Canberra.