Hurricanes prepared for Fijian heat
Stepping into unfamiliar conditions when playing the Fijian Drua on DHL Super Rugby Pacific is an exercise for all teams, and the Hurricanes have prepared well for Saturday's game in Suva.
Having already undergone heat training before their opening game of the year in Townsville, the side had repeated that for their Fiji visit and coach, Jason Holland was sure heat would not be an excuse for their performance.
However, the Drua would be a confident unit on their home ground and with the desire still high to make the playoffs, they would be looking for a significant effort after last week's loss to the Blues.
Drua coach Mick Byrne said this week, "It's only our second year in, and the players are not overwhelmed compared to last year. We've grown in the belief that we can match these teams physically. It's the clinical nature of the game that we continue to need growth in."
That is similar to what Holland is seeking from the Hurricanes.
Now their bye was behind them, they were approaching the remainder of the season as knockout time for each game. So every point was important, and being in Fiji, they knew the Drua had beaten the Crusaders and had a good game with the Blues.
The Hurricanes understood what playing at home meant to them and how the crowd gave them a lift.
"This is a must-win game for us, it's massive. We've talked at length about how we get a victory this week, and how we control the game over here is massive."
The heat was a factor, but he said it was not as hot as their season opener in Townsville in February.
"In no way is it going to stop us doing our jobs, nor is it an excuse for the performance we are going to put out there."
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It will be a special occasion for wing Kini Naholo to play in front of his home crowd. But Holland said he was so laid back you wouldn't know if he was excited or not.
He had shown resilience with his body during his first season in Super Rugby and demonstrated his X-factor last week against the Brumbies.
"He's got a lot of things that complement the way we want to play."
Holland said as with other positions in the side, there was a lot of competition for places, and Saturday would be an important opportunity for Naholo.
Lock Isaiah Walker-Leawere will play his 50th game for the side and will do it on his father's home patch, although his father, who played for Fiji at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, will miss it as he is on coaching duty with the Drua's women's team in Australia.
"He's been a bit of a revolution, Izzy; he's been in the Hurricanes a long time. He's now a leader in our group for a couple of years, and he understands and enjoys things around leading, especially around the lineout space. The other thing with Izzy is that his body is probably in the best knick it has been, and he's getting around the field.
"When he has that involvement in the game, it is positive. It is just getting more and more into it, and now we're seeing that.
"I expect with Izzy's focus on getting better in the last 18 months, he's going to continue going through the roof."
Fijian Drua v Hurricanes: Saturday 6 May, 2.05pm, HFC Bank Stadium, Suva.
Your Hurricanes named to take on the Fijian Drua in Suva on Saturday.— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) May 4, 2023
- Isaia Walker-Leawere celebrates his 50th
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