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Gareth Evans - every minute counts

Hurricanes | 09 March 2018 | Adam Julian

Gareth Evans - every minute counts

"If my matches against the Crusaders finished in the 79th minute, I would have won most of them," Gareth Evans rues when reflecting on his previous encounters against the Super Rugby champions.

Last year Evans featured for the Highlanders in both of their narrow losses to the Crusaders. An outrageous Mitchell Hunt dropped goal in Christchurch and a Seta Tamanivalu try in Dunedin denied the Highlanders late on both occasions.

The Crusaders have won 19 of their last 20 matches and have scored convincing victories against the Chiefs and Stormers to start 2018.

By contrast the Hurricanes slumped to defeat in Pretoria against the Bulls and took an hour to finally subdue a poor Jaguares outfit in Buenos Aires.

Do out of conference fixtures fail to bring out the best in the Hurricanes?

"I don't think so, but there is more hype and intensity around the derby games which brings out the best in everybody," Evans responds.

"We beat the Crusaders and Blues in pre-season and went away with plenty of confidence. We lacked patience against the Bulls and went away from what we do best. The Crusaders are an experienced team with threats all across the park. They can hurt you at anytime, which brings a greater intensity to the buildup," he continued.

There was plenty of intensity at the Westpac Stadium on July 4, 2015. The Hurricanes hosted the Highlanders in the Super Rugby final and were heavily favoured to capture an inaugural crown.


However the Highlanders preformed a great heist and their delighted supporters drunk the Shepherds' Arms on Tinakori Road dry. Evans was a visitor to the capital that evening.

"I got 15 minutes and remember Marty Banks’ dropped goal, Ross Geldenhuys’ try saving tackle on Julian Savea and the fulltime whistle. It was a pretty special game to be involved with,” Evans recalls.

Less than a month earlier the Hurricanes had smashed the Highlanders 56-20 in Napier. How was such a large turnaround achieved so quickly?

"We didn't turn up that night which was really disappointing. That game was played on the night of Jerry Collins’ death. That was a sad day for New Zealand rugby and a very personal one for the Hurricanes. Jerry was such a great player for the Hurricanes and All Blacks, “Evans answers.

Evans played 43 games for the Highlanders and the 23-22 victory against the British & Irish Lions last year was a highlight. Evans won considerable acclaim in the British press for his energetic and abrasive display.

"That was pretty special. When the Blues beat them earlier in the tour it gave us a lot of inspiration. The whole of Dunedin really embraced the game and the atmosphere at Forsyth Barr was electric which really spurred us on," Evans reflects.

Has the chance to be the next Brad Shields spurred Evans move to the North Island? The Wellington captain is UK bound at the end of the season.

"Not necessarily, I'm here to play my way while doing the best for the team. There was never any talk about me being a replacement for Brad Shields," Evans counters.

What differences has Evans noticed between the Highlanders and Hurricanes?

"It's a bigger city so the players are more spread out. It's a bit different from the small town thing in Dunedin. I loved my time in Otago and I'm enjoying Wellington. The culture of both clubs is great," Evans insists.

Evans will be hoping to avoid his long and torrid history of injuries. He has only played 10 matches in the last four seasons for Hawke's Bay - stuck down by a broken forearm, collarbone and knee as well as a hematoma in his quad.

"It's been frustrating because all the injuries seem to have happened at the same time,” Evans morns.

Quitting hasn’t been an option.

“I've been lucky to have strong support from friends and family. I love this game so that's why I keep going,” Evans declared.

Gareth’s brother Bryn Evans played 25 matches for the Hurricanes between 2009 and 2011, and was capped twice for the All Blacks as a lock against France in 2009. Bryn left New Zealand in 2011, spending the last five years at the Sale Sharks. The boy’s mother was born in Zimbabwe, and lives with Dad on a stone fruit orchard in Hastings. The couple originally met in London.

The Hurricanes first home match of the 2018 Super Rugby season kicks off at 7:35pm on Saturday at the Westpac Stadium. The last meeting between the two teams at the venue resulted in a 31-22 win for the hosts.

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