Hurricanes captain Dane Coles will be given until match day to prove his fitness for Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby semifinal against the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium.
Coles has been bracketed at hooker with Ricky Riccitelli in an otherwise unchanged Hurricanes team from the one which beat the Sharks 41-0 in last weekend’s quarterfinal.
Riccitelli has been bracketed with New Zealand Under 20s hooker Leni Apisai, who will come into the squad if Coles does not recover in time from the rib injury he suffered against the Sharks.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd said Coles’ would be given every opportunity to prove his fitness for the semifinal.
“Colesy is improving each day and doing everything he can to get himself fit, but at the end of the day we just won’t know until a little closer to kick off. We are hopeful he’ll make it to the start line, but if he doesn’t we have every confidence in Ricky and Leni to do the job for us as they have done all year.”
Riccitelli has appeared in seven matches this season as a substitute, while Apisai started the opening three matches of the season in Coles’ absence and was the captain of the New Zealand Under 20s team at the Junior World Championships in England.
Boyd said it was pleasing to be able to name such a settled team for the semifinal.
“Clearly the team performed well against the Sharks and it was a bit of a no brainer to let the same side carry on against the Chiefs. Whoever goes out there on Saturday knows we are in for a really tough test because the Chiefs are a quality team.”
Boyd said a major plus for the Hurricanes was home advantage and with about 25,000 tickets sold for the semifinal there was plenty of excitement in the camp.
“Our fans were incredible coming out last week in some pretty testing weather conditions and no doubt this week with a much better forecast the crowd will be bigger again. The guys feed off that energy and that support and it really lifts them.”
Saturday’s match will be the Hurricanes seventh appearance in a Super Rugby semifinal and the second time they have played the Chiefs this season at Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes regular season match against the Chiefs in week nine produced a thrilling finish that saw the Hurricanes lose 28-27.
The Chiefs come into the match on the back of a 60-21 quarterfinal win over the Stormers in Cape Town.
Hurricanes team to play the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 30:
15 James Marshall
14 Cory Jane
13 Matt Proctor
12 Willis Halaholo
11 Jason Woodward
10 Beauden Barrett
9 TJ Perenara (vc)
8 Victor Vito
7 Ardie Savea
6 Brad Shields
5 Michael Fatialofa
4 Vaea Fifita
3 Ben May
2 Dane Coles (c)/Ricky Riccitelli
1 Loni Uhila
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea.
Injured: Reggie Goodes (concussion), Ngani Laumape (groin), Blade Thomson (shoulder), Nehe Milner-Skudder (shoulder), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (broken arm), Motu Matu’u