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Aisle Be Back: Hurricanes v Sunwolves

Hurricanes | 23 February 2017 | Kevin McCarthy

Aisle Be Back: Hurricanes v Sunwolves

Above: The Hurricanes after their pre-season win over the Crusaders in Waverley last Friday. Photo by Dave Lintott Photography - more photos of the match here

I'm sure you've got over the heartbreak of last year. Second year in a row that the Canes reached the final of Super Rugby - and lost.

Not that it wasn't pretty epic, but was there ever a bigger heartbreaker than watching Elton Jantjes skid through to score in the 81st minute, after six minutes of desperate lung-busting defence at Ellis Park.

But that's what happens when you have to fly to the other side of the world.

You'll remember the crazies who talked about the dream scenario. We'd beat the Saders in Christchurch with a bonus point (yeah nah), and by the end of that final weekend, could actually have topped the Super table and the insanely close Kiwi conference.

But that would have required the Lions to muff their final game away to the Jaguares. And nowhere on planet rugby were they going to risk that happening.

So yeah, instead we had to grind out quarters and semis away. So by the time the final came around, that watertight defence was just a half second off. And that's all it took.

Okay, okay, which is a convoluted way of asking this question. How on earth do the Hurricanes pull off anything remotely like their debut championship winning season?

Because you really have to pinch yourself still over that run-in to the title. All set to the thundering weather that we love so.

RLM

So, as a fan, if you're like me, you're mulling over perhaps what your default setting should be.

Here are some options:

Cocky bastard - hand the trophy back now.

Hopeful bastard - well, they should have a fair crack at it again.

Worried / tormented bastard - oh no, it'll turn horribly wrong thanks to a unhealthy dose of over-confidence.

Personally, I can't see any reason not to treat this year like I have every season backing the Canes. Which is a weird sort of mixture of all three above.

I think it's the only way to stay Cane sane. Depends on your definition of sanity though.

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It's like the E Street Band without the Boss himself. Otere Black will guide the Canes around Prince Chichibu on Saturday, while the older Barrett watches and presumably chips in advice to Jordie at fullback. 

That's what you call riches. Of course, Black is more than serving an apprenticeship, and you have to wonder who came sniffing around in the off-season (Blues anyone?). 

So it's great to see him getting the first-up call (supposedly to meet All Black protocols). It's not that long ago that he helped out creditably during Beaudie's 2015 injury sojourn, and he looks the goods. 

Proctor and Laumape as the future centre pairing? And will the Bus have loaded his SatNav from game one to reflect the streets of Tokyo, rather than some perplexing back alley in god knows where. Here's hoping. 

It's "only" the Sunwolves, with the Rebels to follow, but it's still hard not to get excited about seeing how 2017 kicks off. 

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Pretty keen to get my hands on my season ticket and promised leg warmer blanket. Shame that we're halfway through winter already but mustn't grumble.

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The Hurricanes team to face the Sunwolves is: Jordie Barrett, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Otere Black, TJ Perenara (c), Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, James Blackwell, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves. Reserves: Dane Coles, Ben May, Mike Kainga, Reed Prinsep, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Beauden Barrett, Vince Aso.

Kick-off: 5.15pm NZT on Saturday.

Lifelong All Blacks supporter Kev has followed the Hurricanes since they began. Last year his faith in them was rewarded when they won the title – can they do it again? 

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