Perenara’s form lauded by Hurricanes

Date published: July 29 2016

In-form halfback TJ Perenara has emerged as a key figure in the Hurricanes' Super Rugby semi-final against the Chiefs.

Beauden Barrett versus Aaron Cruden warrants top billing when positional clashes are measured for the Hurricanes-Chiefs showdown.

But Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd reckons it's worth looking one place further in, at the collision of two arch-rival half-backs in Wellington on Saturday.

Boyd believes his effervescent number nine Perenara is in career-best form and is now aware of his importance to the home side as they seek to break a 20-year title drought.

The clash of Perenara and his All Blacks rival Tawera Kerr-Barlow will be influential, particularly after the former's electric performance in the 41-0 crushing of the Sharks in Wellington last week.

Long renowned for his support play and a try-scoring knack, the 24-year-old has morphed into a key decision-maker, Boyd says.

"I think his game in the weekend was the best singular game he's played," Boyd said.

"He's taken on a real maturity around his role with Beauden in driving the ship around. He's playing with a degree of confidence and a degree of assertiveness, and he knows for us to do well at the weekend, he needs to play well."

Perenara, a 19-Test veteran, has been rated behind Kerr-Barlow in the All Blacks selectors' pecking order behind Aaron Smith since the Chiefs man returned from serious injury a year ago.

Kerr-Barlow has played second-fiddle to Brad Weber for much of the Chiefs' campaign but the more experienced and combative player has been favoured this week by coach Dave Rennie.

Both half-backs' service to Barrett and Cruden will be critical, with the two five-eighths capable of breaking open the tightest defensive lines.

The biggest difference between two evenly-matched teams is play-off history.

The Chiefs have won their last three semi-final appearances, most recently their championship campaigns in 2012 and 2013.

In contrast, the Hurricanes have lost five of seven semi-finals and have lost all six of their previous play-off game against Kiwi teams.