Coles hits his century
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Hurricanes captain Dane Coles will become the latest Super Rugby centurion when his side face the Lions in the Super Rugby semifinal on Saturday.
The Wellington hooker’s return is one of two changes to the Hurricanes starting side with the competition’s leading try scorer Vince Aso reclaiming his place at centre in a reshuffled backline.
Coles will become the eleventh player to achieve 100 caps for the Hurricanes after Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Rodney So'oialo, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Tana Umaga, Victor Vito and Julian Savea.
"It will be a massive honour to join those players in reaching a milestone that I never thought I would achieve," he said.
"I love pulling on the yellow and black jersey and representing the Hurricanes region and I’ve treasured every opportunity,"
It will be Coles’ first start since he suffered concussion against the Highlanders in round four and comes a week after his successful return via the bench against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Coles, who made his Hurricanes debut against the Waratahs in Wellington in 2009, replaces Ricky Riccitelli in an otherwise unchanged forward pack.
The return of Aso from the groin injury that kept him out of the quarterfinal sees wing Julian Savea move to the reserves at the expense of veteran Cory Jane.
Aso replaces Jordie Barrett at centre with the latter moving back to fullback in place of Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Milner-Skudder shifts to the right wing with Wes Goosen switching sides to start in the No.11 jersey previously held by Savea.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said Coles’ return to the starting side was a boost for what would be a special occasion.
"Colesy is a leader and a great competitor and I know this group feeds off his presence, so it’s good timing to have him fit and firing in time for what we expect to be a tough semifinal.
"He epitomises what the Hurricanes are about as a club on and off the field and although he probably won’t want anyone to make a fuss, I’m sure his milestone will provide some motivation for his teammates,"
Boyd said his side would have to lift several notches against the Lions.
"They are a quality team and have shown that throughout the year. Ellis Park is a tough place to play and with the home crowd behind them we are under no illusions about the challenge we will face in Johannesburg,"
The Hurricanes have played the Lions 20 times previously winning 17 of those matches and losing three, but the teams have not met in 2017.
The two teams last played in the 2016 Super Rugby final at Westpac Stadium where the Hurricanes won 20-3 to win the franchises' inaugural title.
Fourteen of the Hurricanes match day 23 on Saturday took part in last year’s final.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Julian Savea.
Date: Saturday, July 29
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 14.30 (12.30 GMT; 00.30, Sunday, July 30, NZ time)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)