Tighthead prop Chris Eves and midfielder Willis Halaholo have been called up to the Hurricanes starting XV for Saturday’s crunch Super Rugby match against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Eves comes into the starting team for Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who broke his arm during the Hurricanes’ 37-27 win over the Blues last weekend, while Halaholo earns a promotion from the reserves after Vince Aso was ruled out with a calf strain.
Experienced prop Ben May and midfielder Ngani Laumape, who has recovered from a groin strain, come into the reserves, while openside Callum Gibbins returns to the squad after skipping the Blues match due to concussion.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd believes it is a great opportunity for the players who had been called up to the starting side.
“Chris did a great job for us against the Blues when he came on early in the match and Willis has been a really effective impact player all season, so I’m very comfortable with both of those changes,” he said.
Eves has made 12 appearances this season and will make his third start of the season against the Waratahs after previously playing at loosehead against the Force and Kings.
Halaholo, who has appeared 10 times in 2016, also makes his third start after wearing the number 13 jersey against the Kings and Jaguares.
Boyd said the players were fully aware of the importance of the Waratahs match.
“It’s fairly obvious the points table is very tight in the New Zealand Conference and we are only a few weeks away from the playoffs, so I think a lot of teams know every point will be important from here on,” he added.
The Hurricanes are third in the New Zealand Conference, just two points behind leaders the Chiefs, one behind the Crusaders, and sixth on the overall competition ladder.
The Waratahs are also in the playoff hunt, tied on points with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference and come into the penultimate round of the regular season off the back of big wins against the Chiefs and Sunwolves.
Last time the Hurricanes played the Waratahs was in Wellington last season with the visitors winning a high scoring match 29-24.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Julian 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), 1Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward
Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees, James Leckie
TMO: Ian Smith