Super Rugby: TJ Perenara staunchly defends his Hurricanes forwards ahead of Crusaders test

2019-03-28 06:42:34

Don't try telling TJ Perenara his forward pack can't match it with the Crusaders.

The halfback and captain launched a spirited defence of his beleaguered big men after his side's captain's run on Thursday, saying criticism of them throughout the season has been wide of the mark.

"The critics who talk about our pack are people who often haven't played the game and don't know a lot about the game.

"Our pack is doing a really good job for us. The service I've been getting at nine has been good. Our set piece has been functioning at a level I have been happy with and if we continue to grow and continue to get better in that area, we're gonna put away a few teams for a big part of this tournament."

In fairness to Perenara and his pack, they haven't been too bad this season, but Perenara did also miss most of the two matches when they were really put to the sword.

That was when he played 20 minutes off the bench against the Crusaders in their 38-22 loss down in Christchurch, while the other was during last Saturday's win against the Stormers, when Perenara was serving an All Blacks rest week.

It was their set piece which proved the most problematic in those matches, but Perenara said they could make their presence felt in other areas.

"The physicality we bring at ruck time, if you ask most teams after they play the Hurricanes about the physicality that we do bring at ruck time, that's our forward pack who bring that, and the likes of [midfielders] Ngani [Laumape] and Matty [Proctor] bring a lot of physicality in that area, but our forward pack does lead us in terms of the ruck space."

In the aftermath of that Crusaders loss - their third on the trot against the two-time defending champions - Hurricanes coach John Plumtree said his side had been angry with themselves for their performance.

With five weeks to reflect on it, Perenara said it was a good wake up call to show them what they needed to improve.

"We got a lot of learnings out of that game and it gave us a check on where we were as a team and where we needed to get to if we want to be competitive in this competition.

"The growth we got from that for this young group was pretty important."

But any thoughts of revenge for that match were far from Perenara's mind.

"Media, and maybe fans, hype up the game between the two teams, but I'm sure in their camp, just like in our camp, we treat this game as any other week. Buying into the extra hype outside of a rugby game does nothing for our team.

"I don't think the feeling differentiates, and I don't think it should. Quality teams and quality players have a mindset where the game they go into, regardless of opponent, it doesn't matter for their preparations or emotion levels."

Doing the basics well and limiting their mistakes against a Crusaders team which viciously preys on other opposition errors were the areas Perenara identified as most important to their chances of success on Friday night at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

The Hurricanes have won their last five matches against the Crusaders at the ground dating back to April 2012.


What: Super Rugby, round seven

Where and when: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 7.35pm

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe

Hurricanes: Chase Tiatia, Jordie Barrett, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (c), Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Liam Mitchell, James Blackwell, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Fraser Armstrong. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Richard Judd, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Wes Goosen.

Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Harry Allan. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Oli Jager, Quinten Strange, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Will Jordan.

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