Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Hurricanes need to nail Brumbies

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Mark Hammet is convinced his methods are in sync with the players. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Hammet is convinced his methods are in sync with the players. Photo / Getty Images

It's not panic time yet at the Hurricanes but they need to strike a result tonight.

Starting this year's competition in South Africa with two defeats against the Sharks and Stormers, then recovering from the long-haul return journey, is an awkward preparation for a duel with the Brumbies.

Another slip-up at the Cake Tin and the plodding Hurricane chants will sound even more dreary.

While the NZRU and Blues were able to announce an extension to Sir John Kirwan's contract after an opening round defeat, there has been no such noise about Canes coach Mark "Hammer" Hammett.

He's into the fourth year of his coaching stint and is convinced his methods are in sync with the players and that improvement will occur.

The Hurricanes and Hammett need it to work because their record shows a faltering 21 wins, 27 losses and two draws.

Ninth, eighth and 11th place finishes is not strong ammunition for any job renewal.

Hammett has 26 players back from last season with 11 All Blacks, four Maori All Blacks and three Samoan internationals in a group he predicted would step up this year.

The scrum was astray against the Sharks before late glitches told against the Stormers.

Hammett wants the Canes to bring a tighter approach to their game, to reduce the margins for error.

The players appear to have bought into his ethos. There were murmurs star backs Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett were hesitant about staying but they did in the wake of serious offers from elsewhere.

From the outside, there is some head-scratching about the reluctance to use Ardie Savea more but it seems Hammett wants to drip feed the young flanker into the fray. He is preaching patience with the talented 20-year-old who was taken as an apprentice on last year's All Black tour.

Hammett wants to manage Savea's workload but he also needs to manage his mind and confidence - and that might be getting agitated.

Victor Vito, Brad Shields and Faifili Levave are damaged yet Savea cannot get past the reserves bench as the coach goes for bulkier loose forwards to begin the match.

If the Hurricanes are to snap their mini-streak they have to get more from their tight forwards so their backline can work over defences.

TJ Perenara and Barrett is a partnership that has to go past the promising stage while Conrad Smith can finesse the tasks for Julian Savea and Cory Jane further out.

Last season, the Brumbies retuned their systems under the deliberate technical work of Jake White and got to the final. They lost White offshore and their first game to the Reds then showed some sharp patches in beating the Force in the last round.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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