Midfield reshuffle for Hurricanes

A midfield reshuffle is the only change to the Hurricanes starting XV named to play the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

Ngani Laumape has been promoted from the bench to start at inside centre with Willis Halaholo shifting out one spot to wear the number 13 jersey for the final round of Super Rugby’s regular season.

The Hurricanes rejig comes after regular centre Matt Proctor was ruled out with the hamstring strain that forced him off the field early in last weekend’s win over the Waratahs in Sydney. Proctor’s regular midfield partner Vince Aso remains sidelined with a calf strain.

It will be Laumape’s first start since running out against the Sharks five weeks ago, while Halaholo will make his twelfth appearance and fourth start of the campaign.

The two Tongans have previously started together twice in the midfield this season, against the Kings and Jaguares, and played the majority of last weekend’s 28-17 win over the Waratahs.

Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd was more than comfortable the combination would perform well against the Crusaders.

“They haven’t had a huge amount of time together as a midfield pairing, but they have both been heavily involved all season, so I don’t think they will have any problems coming together this week,” he said.

“Willis has been in good form for us all season, he’s got good footwork and a good passing game and Ngani is very powerful, so it’s potentially an exciting duo.”

The only other change to the squad is on the replacements bench where Wes Goosen takes Laumape’s place as midfield cover. It will be Goosen’s first appearance since he scored a try with his first touch in Super Rugby against the Reds two months ago.

The Hurricanes have already qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs and with a bonus point win over the Crusaders could still win the New Zealand Conference and earn a home quarter-final at Westpac Stadium next weekend.

However, win or lose, Boyd won’t immediately know where his team are heading for the play-offs, or whom they are playing, with their fate dependent on other results.

The final play-off schedule won’t be known until after the Lions play the Jaguares on Sunday in the final match of the Super Rugby regular season.

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Juilan Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Chris Eves, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Wes Goosen, 23 Jason Woodward

Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 17:15 local (05:15 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)