The Tongan Bear is back for the Hurricanes and hoping to do a number on some of his provincial teammates at his Hamilton stomping ground.

Loni Uhila plays Mitre 10 Cup for Waikato, though he has played less games for the Mooloos (10) than he has for the Hurricanes (15). However, he did play a vital role starting at loosehead prop in the 2016 Super Rugby playoffs, his only three starts of the season.

Now Uhila is tasked, in place of Chris Eves, with repelling the force of All Black Nepo Laulala and a Chiefs' tight five that is champing at the bit, having dusted up the Blues last Friday. Kane Hames targeted Sione Mafileo on the Chiefs' loosehead side, so pressure will come there on Jeffery Toomaga-Allen.

Uhila is one of two changes for the Hurricanes, with lock Mark Abbott relacing James Blackwell.


"It's good to be back. It's pretty massive for me, especially playing the Chiefs having lived in Hamilton for the last few years. I love going back there. I'm a Waikato man," says Uhila, who has overcome a niggly calf, which ruled him out of the opening two blowouts.

"I'm fully prepared and we'll be ready for it. The scrum was one of their strong points last week and we've been working hard in that area this week and hopefully we can give them a good go."

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd had no qualms about introducing Uhila to the starting mix.

"He's been a slow burner for us at the start of the season, but Waikato is his home patch, so he's looking forward to it. Scrumming underpins his game, so he was a surprise for us at the end of the season, but put his hand up and did really well for us," he says.

"They've got a massive quality set-piece, when you consider that Hames, Elliot and Laulala have all been All Blacks to some degree, and Bird and Retallick. Retallick is probably the best lock in the world. Their front five is world-class, so our guys will have to go into the top drawer to keep them quiet."

There may not be the usual attacking opportunities if the rain falls, meaning the much scrutinised aerial game will be a factor.

"The elephant in the room for Friday night is that it looks like it is going to be wet... that will dictate how much football both sides are prepared to play. So the game, as I see it now, could be quite different. We'd like to continue with our defensive pressure and continue with our attacking game, but it might not be possible to do either," Boyd says.

Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Mark Abbott, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (c), Loni Uhila

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Ben May, James Blackwell, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Otere Black, Jordie Barrett