Hurricanes captain Dane Coles will be given until Saturday to prove his fitness for the Super Rugby semi-final against the Chiefs in Wellington.
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 quarter-final.
Riccitelli has been bracketed with New Zealand U20 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 doing everything he can to get himself fit in time for kick off, but at the end of the day we just won’t know until a little closer to kick off,” he commended.
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 U20 team at the Junior World Championship in England.
Boyd said it was pleasing to be able to name such a settled team for the semi-final.
“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,” he added.
“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 semi-final 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,” he said.
“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 semi-final and the second time they have played the Chiefs this season at the Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes regular season match against the Chiefs in Round Nine produced a thrilling finish that saw the Hurricanes lose 28-27.
The Chiefs come into the match on the back of a 62-10 quarter-final win over the Stormers in Cape Town.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 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
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea
Date: Saturday, July 30
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen