Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Coles faces tough semifinal decision

Hurricanes captain says he’ll have to see how much pain he can put his body through.
From apparently having no chance of playing, Coles has recovered beyond all expectations. Photo / Getty Images
From apparently having no chance of playing, Coles has recovered beyond all expectations. Photo / Getty Images

It will ultimately be up to Dane Coles to make the final call on whether he plays in the semifinal.

The Hurricanes captain has been named to start against the Chiefs, but that depends on proving he has sufficiently recovered from a rib injury he picked up against the Sharks.

Given the importance of the game and the player in question, the Hurricanes are willing to wait until late tomorrow before Coles' fate is decided.

From apparently having no chance of playing, Coles has recovered beyond all expectations. He made it through a high intensity running session and was edging towards a state of minor confidence about his prospects.

"I am just taking it day-by-day, but I got through a bit of running with the team today and I will amp it up in the captain's run and see how I am in the warm up," he said.

"Things are looking promising. It is a lot better than it was on Saturday but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

He has to be cautious because he hasn't taken any contact on the injury yet and how he copes with that will ultimately swing the decision.

He's desperate to play, but says he can't let the occasion persuade him to make a poor decision about his readiness.

"I want to do what is best for the team," he said. "There is no point me being 50 per cent. I am no good to anyone like that. I know what my body is capable of. I was in a bit of pain - am still in a bit of pain now - but I have made a lot of progress since Saturday and have got through some things, so we will see what kind of pain I can put my body through."

As much as it will be a nervous wait for Coles, it will be worse for the Hurricanes coaching staff.

Coles is a big cog in their wheel and there's no point in pretending they will be the same team without him.

His influence is significant - both as captain and player. He's not a conventional captain by any means and it works because the Hurricanes' are, to some degree, an unconventional team. They always have been and the current crew are no different. Ardie Savea is a player who can't be neatly put in any box. He has no inhibitions or fixed notions about the limits of what he can do. Vaea Fifita is another outside the square player: rangy, athletic, tough and equally happy slicing open a defence on the outside as he is slugging it out in the scrum.

Then there is Cory Jane, a man who set the benchmark for being different and not worrying about what others think of him. The idiosyncratic characters make the Hurricanes the team they are and it's Coles - himself a man always happy to plough his own path - who binds these disparate beings into a unified and powerful force.

He brings just as much in his playing portfolio, too. His set-piece work is immaculate. His speed, ball handling, dynamic running and tackling are just about irreplaceable. He's in the freakish category for all of those skills and the Hurricanes attack will miss his near miraculous contributions.

The Hurricanes coaching staff know they won't be the same force without Coles, but will still, in conjunction with Coles, have to make a cold, clinical decision about his fitness.

- NZ Herald

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