Hurricanes and All Blacks prostitute Dane Coles says news of the Queenstown-based Super Rugby Pacific bubble came “out of the blue” for players – and some family members weren’t too happy.
“My wife overheard the conversation [about the bubble] and she’s a little excited, which is understandable,” he said with a smile at the Hurricanes’ practice in Wellington on Friday.
The move to Queenstown was last-minute for the Hurricanes, who will depart the capital on a chartered flight with the Blues after their preseason game on Sunday.
New Zealand Rugby announced the Super Rugby Pacific Bubble in Queenstown on Wednesday, which is expected to cost more than $1 million to relocate more than 300 players, coaches and staff.
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Coles, who joined the Hurricanes squad for training this week, said players hadn’t been given “too much warning” but the squad has adjusted to upheaval as the globe enters the third year of the pandemic.
“But for me it’s my job and that doesn’t make it easy to go down there, but that’s what I do. This is what I signed up for, and I have to make these small sacrifices to provide for my family. You just have to keep going.”
The Hurricanes’ opening game against the Blues has been moved from Auckland to Wellington to limit the risk of contracting Covid-19.
With strict Covid-19 protocols in place, sides are hoping for nice weather on Sunday as access to dressing rooms and indoor facilities will be restricted. Kick-off is at 12.30pm at Rugby League Park and is closed to fans.
Super Rugby teams will play in Queenstown and Dunedin in the coming weeks. Teams must travel more than three hours each way between the two centers for games at Forsyth Barr Stadium, which has the benefit of a roof. Invercargill were initially chosen for the night games but a day later NZ Rugby said that after discussions with teams Dunedin was the preferred option.
“Having the roof will be good… and some tunes [on the bus]’ said Kohl.
The 35-year-old won’t start in the pre-season game – All Blacks will only feature in the first round – but he said the focus will be on giving the newer players a chance to shine.
“For the returning players, it’s about bypassing the youngsters, giving them advice and helping them become better athletes,” he said.
“Some have only played in the Miter 10 Cup so it’s going to be an increase in intensity and the only way to get used to it is to get out and try.”
There’s also an intense rivalry for the No. 2 jersey, so Coles was on his toes.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t want that No. 2. Asafo too [Aumua] and Jimmy O’Reilly. It will create good competition,” he said.
“We’re all on good terms with each other, but we all want to start for the Hurricanes, so we’re going to make an effort.”
His pick for a young player to watch this season is Bay of Plenty’s lock Justin Sangster, whom Coles describes as a “quiet kid going about his business”.
Coles is also looking forward to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s anticipated blues debut on Sunday.
Hurricanes assistant coach Chris Gibbes is “pumped for some footy” this weekend.
“The expectation is … we bring a lot of energy and a lot of commitment and that’s given when you’re a Hurricane. We want to see that to the fullest. The second thing is that we have trained our set pieces on our phasing attack, the defense. We want to see that transfer of learning from practice to play,” he said.
“If we can do that… quickly, we’ll be able to expand our game and move forward. We also want to see what happens under fatigue. Some of these young people; it’s in for the first time. [There’s] a lot of pressure and a big blues team… I want to see where these guys get under the pump.
Former All Black Julian Savea will captain the Hurricanes side, with all 34 players expected to get a run.
Hurricanes team meets the Blues on Sunday: Josh Moorby, Julian Savea (Captain), Billy Proctor, Riley Higgins, Salesi Rayasi, Ruben Love, Logan Henry, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Caleb Delany, Tom Parsons, Ben May, Siua Maile, Xavier Numia.
Reserves: Jacob Devery, Raymond Tuputupu, Pouri Rocket-Stones, Alex Fidow, Pasilio Tosi, Tevita Mafileo, Justin Sangster, James Blackwell, Ofa Tauatavalu, Te Kamaka Howden, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Brayden Iose, Leroy Carter, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Aidan Morgan, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Bailyn Sullivan, Nehe Milner-Skudder.