21 Feb 2024

Perenara not yet ready for Super Rugby Pacific return

4:02 pm on 21 February 2024
Hurricanes' TJ Perenara looks to pass during the Hurricanes vs Crusaders Super Rugby Aotearoa match at Sky Stadium on Sunday the 21st of June 2020. Photo by Marty Melville / Photosport.co.nz

Perenara is on the comeback from an Achilles injury. Photo: PhotoSport

Former All Black TJ Perenara has been left out of the Hurricanes team for their first match of the Super Rugby Pacific season against the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.

Perenara returned to the Hurricanes last week after more than a year off with injury, starting in the pre-season win over Moana Pasifika in Upper Hutt.

He ruptured his Achilles on the All Blacks end of year tour in 2022.

Coach Clark Laidlaw says the veteran isn't up to a full Super Rugby match just yet.

"He's had such a long period out that he's not quite ready.

"We were super happy with the way he went last week (against Moana) and he's going to play for our development team this week where the plan is to try and get 50 minutes.

"That was always the plan and he's probably ahead of schedule and we're really happy with how he's going.

Young halfback Jordi Viljoen has been named to start and will make his Super Rugby debut.

"He's a typically little live wire halfback. He's not big in stature but he's got a good pass, he's fast around the field and he's grown his kicking game," Laidlaw said.

Jordi Viljoen of Manawatu celebrates winning the match. Auckland v Manawatu, Week 4 of the 2023 Bunnings Warehouse NPC domestic rugby union competition at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand on Wednesday 30 August 2023. Mandatory credit: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Jordi Viljoen is set to make his Super Rugby debut. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

All Blacks No.9 Cam Roigard returns to the side off the bench after missing the Hurricanes two preseason matches due to a minor injury.

With regular captain Brad Shields ruled out of the match with injury, Asafo Aumua and Jordie Barrett have been named as co-captains.

Starting in the front row are Xavier Numea, Aumua, and Pasilio Tosi. They will be joined by Caleb Delany and Isaia Walker-Leawere in the second row; with Devan Flanders, Du'Plessis Kirifi, and Peter Lakai rounding out the loose forwards.

Halfback Viljoen will be partnered by Brett Cameron at first-five.

All Black Jordie Barrett and Billy Proctor will form an experienced midfield, while Kini Naholo, Josh Moorby, and Ruben Love are the back three.

Hurricanes Head Coach Clark Laidlaw said settling on a starting XV after their two preseason hit outs wasn't easy but is excited with the side they have put together heading into their match against the Force.

"There were some tight selection decisions for the coaches in the end, but we're really happy with the team that will run out in Round One," Laidlaw said.

"This is the first game of the competition, so we're excited to see the starting group run out, but more importantly it's going to take 23 players to get the job done.

"We've got a lot of respect for the Force and we're under no illusions around how good of a performance we're going to have to put out on the field to come away with a win. It's going to take a squad effort to get the performance we're after."

Hurricanes Billy Proctor .

Billy Proctor. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The match against the Force will also see Billy Proctor achieve a major milestone with the centre set to play his 50th game for the club - a milestone his brother and former Hurricane midfielder Matt Proctor also achieved.

"It's a massive honour to play 50 games for the Hurricanes. It's the team I grew up watching and it was always my dream to play just one game for the Hurricanes. But to be able to bring up 50 games this weekend and join my brother in the 50 club is something pretty special," Proctor said.