Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Hurricanes face a test of depth

Ben May. Photo / Getty Images.
Ben May. Photo / Getty Images.

With two games to go before the June internationals the Hurricanes face a stern test of their depth, particularly in the outside back division.

The ninth-placed Hurricanes, who sit six points outside of the top six on the Super Rugby ladder, meet the Rebels in Wellington next weekend and the Waratahs in Sydney the following round before the three-week international break kicks in.

But, they will have to tackle those two Australian sides without robust flanker Karl Lowe and All Blacks wing Cory Jane, who both suffered injuries in Friday night's disappointing 37-25 loss to the Brumbies at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Jane limped off with a high ankle sprain during the first half and is expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Lowe damaged his right knee during the dying stages of the game and will be out of action for four to six weeks.

One area in which the Hurricanes have plenty of talent is the loose forward stable, where Jack Lam appears ready and waiting to take Lowe's spot.

Victor Vito could also cover openside flanker.

Faifili Levave has impressed this season and Brad Shields' potential was highlighted with his inclusion to the All Blacks' wider training squad last week.

Hurricanes assistant coach Alama Ieremia said the squad would have no issue covering the loss of Lowe.

"Our depth will be tested, but at least we've got the depth there at this stage," he said.

Filling Jane's spot on the right wing is a different story though and Alapati Leiua, who debuted for the Hurricanes in 2010 but has never cemented a spot in the team, shapes as the likely replacement.

Hawkes Bay outside Richard Buckman is another option but he failed to impress during an earlier season outing against the Crusaders.

The Hurricanes could move fullback Andre Taylor to the wing and play regular pivot Beauden Barrett in the No 15 jersey leaving Tusi Pisi to run the cutter at five-eighth.

Ieremia said they were disappointed to drop the game to the Brumbies after they fell asleep during the final 25 minutes to gift the visitors three tries.

"We had a quick catch up straight after the game and it was a pretty dull mood in the team and probably more because of our performance really. We let ourselves down in certain areas and we'll identify those tomorrow (monday) in the review and put a plan forward looking to the Rebels. But it was pretty disappointing because it's a game that was there for the taking."

The loss also marked the fourth time in five games that the Hurricanes have been defeated at their Wellington home base this year.

Ieremia said there was no rhyme or reason as to why the side had found it tough to win at Westpac Stadium.

"It's hard to put a finger on it at this stage so I don't know what it is. We are going to have a look at all the areas in terms of our preparation and make sure we actually get to the bottom of it. But it was a performance that probably wasn't up there in terms of our season."


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