Hurricanes unleash 'Tongan Bear' on Chiefs

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:25
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Loose head prop Loni Uhila and lock Mark Abbott have been ushered into the tight five for the Hurricanes.

The defending Super Rugby champions face compatriots the Chiefs in the big New Zealand derby between two of the tournament's unbeaten sides in Hamilton on Friday.

Uhila, popularly known as The Tongan Bear, pushes Chris Eves to the reserves and Mike Kainga out of the matchday 23, while Abbott makes a straight swap with James Blackwell, who takes his place on the bench.

Uhila missed the opening two rounds of the season, against the Sunwolves and Rebels, due to a calf strain, while Abbott missed the trip to Japan due to personal reasons before entering the competition as a substitute against the Rebels last week.

"Loni and Abbo have both had slightly delayed starts to the season, but they've performed really well through the preseason and now they're ready to enter the fray," Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said.

"That's not a reflection on the guys who they've replaced, but just what we feel will be the best combination for this week."

The Hurricanes come into the match with two wins from two matches after beating the Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo and the Rebels 71-6 in Wellington.

The Chiefs have also won their opening two matches in 2017, beating the Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin in week one, and the Blues, 41-26 in Hamilton in round two.

Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Vince Aso, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Jordie Barrett.

Date: Friday, Match 10
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 25 May 2018
Crusaders v Hurricanes 07h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sunwolves 09h45 Melbourne
Jaguares v Sharks 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sat, 26 May 2018
Chiefs v Waratahs 07h35 Hamilton
Reds v Highlanders 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Bulls v Brumbies 13h05 Loftus Versfeld
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens 14h00 London
Stormers v Lions 15h15 Newlands
Leinster v Scarlets 17h00 Dublin
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 11 6 1 4 31
Rebels 11 5 0 6 25
Reds 11 4 0 7 18
Brumbies 11 3 0 8 16
Sunwolves 11 0 9 10
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 12 10 0 2 46
Hurricanes 11 10 0 1 45
Highlanders 11 7 0 4 32
Chiefs 11 7 0 4 32
Blues 12 3 0 9 17
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 13 7 0 6 36
Jaguares 12 7 0 5 29
Sharks 12 5 1 6 28
Bulls 12 5 0 7 24
Stormers 13 5 0 8 23