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

Rugby: Lee Lo has to fill big void for Hurricanes

Reynold Lee-Lo will get a chance to show the home fans what he can do. Photo / Getty Images
Reynold Lee-Lo will get a chance to show the home fans what he can do. Photo / Getty Images

By the time Hurricanes centre Reynold Lee-Lo laces up his boots tonight he will have already received some banter from a couple of members of the Chiefs.

Lee-Lo has the unenviable task of filling the large void left by Conrad Smith, who continues to be sidelined with concussion, and there will be a few familiar faces across Westpac Stadium for him as the Hurricanes host the Chiefs.

The 27-year-old Lee-Lo plays for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup and was expecting texts from his provincial teammates who play for the Chiefs.

"There's two of them," Lee-Lo smiled. "Augustine Pulu and Bundee Aki, especially Bundee." And his reply? "Good luck. See you out there."

Pre-match jawing aside, the Chiefs will be given a first-hand example of what they have missed out on in Lee-Lo, who falls within the Chiefs' catchment area but couldn't pick up a contract with Dave Rennie's side.

Lee-Lo was a wider training group member with the Chiefs in 2011, but when the Hurricanes came calling last year he jumped at the chance to play at the next level and relocated.

Lee-Lo said he received some advice from Counties coach Tana Umaga, who made a name for himself in the Hurricanes backline from 1996-2007. "He said, 'Don't just go down there for the fun of it. Go down there and prove yourself, try to get into the team and have fun."'

It's certainly been a fun ride for Lee-Lo, who had six games on the bench before his maiden start in last week's 39-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and tonight he will get a chance to show the home fans what he can do.

He was kept pretty quiet by the Cheetahs last week but he's a dangerous runner and reliable on defence.

Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett was at his best last week as his kicking game directed the team around the park with accuracy, but he won't find as much open real estate at the Cake Tin tonight as the Chiefs will put more bodies at the back to field his long punts.

Barrett's taped-up head features again tonight as he recovers from a cut to his left eyebrow courtesy of a stray boot from Bulls hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle. "Not ideal to get run over by him," Barrett laughed.

Tonight's game shapes up as another must-win for the ninth-placed Hurricanes as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive.


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