Canes' All Blacks 'eased back'
Only one All Black will be on display when the Hurricanes take on the Crusaders in Timaru on Saturday.
Only one All Black, hooker Dane Coles, will be on display when the Hurricanes take on the Crusaders in their opening Super Rugby pre-season match in Timaru on Saturday.
Canes coach Mark Hammett named Coles on an extended bench for a game that will be played four quarters.
With the All Blacks easing into their playing duties, the wider squad will get an early chance to make an impression.
Captain Conrad Smith, loose forward Victor Vito, wing Cory Jane, and flyhalf Beauden Barrett officially returned to full duties this week, but won't feature in the matchday squad.
Former Crusader prop Ben Franks arrived on Sunday, but are also being held back.
Hammett said he is looking to the team's three warm-up matches - against the Crusaders, Rebels and Chiefs - to increase competition for spots ahead of the season-opener against the Blues on February 23.
The good news is that scrumhalf TJ Perenara will make his long-awaited return to the playing field. He will also play off the bench.
It will be the first time the talented scrumhalf has played since breaking an ankle during the Hurricanes bye week on the Gold Coast last June.
Perenara is now fully fit and raring to go, and was hoping to get through about 30 minutes.
Another player returning from injury is North Harbour scrumhalf Chris Smylie, who will start against the Crusaders.
He missed the entire Hurricanes season last year after tearing a shoulder in the final pre-season match.
Six players will miss the Crusaders match through injury including loose forward Brad Shields, though he has been given the all-clear from his surgeon and is hopeful of taking some part in the final pre-season match against the Chiefs at Mangatainoka.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Rey LeeLo, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 James Marshall, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Mike Coman, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Callum Gibbins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Reg Goodes.
Replacements - from: Dane Coles, Jeremy Thrush, Eric Sione, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, TJ Perenara, Papa Wharewera, Ope Peleseuma, Ambrose Curtis, Parataiso Silafai-Lea'ana
Date: Saturday, February 2
Venue: Alpine Energy Stadium, Timaru
Kick-off: 15.00 (02.00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Kane McBride, Local