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Brad Shields ready for Super Rugby return

Brad Shields ready for Super Rugby return

All BlacksFebruary 15, 2024

It's a vastly changed concept in Super Rugby Pacific that Hurricanes captain and flanker Brad Shields has returned to in 2024.

He last played for the Wellington-based side in 2018.

"The South Africans' absence is disappointing. I remember travelling to South Africa, and my first game was in Cape Town, so it's a different outlook without the travel. But at the same time, you have got to adapt, and Super Rugby is still a really good competition, a good product, and it's exciting to watch.

"The introduction of Moana Pasifika and the Drua from Fiji- those guys can beat anyone on their day, just like us, makes the competition quite even. Australia is in a rebuild phase, and New Zealand is trying to be ultra-competitive, so that will make an exciting competition."

Shields said that while the Hurricanes were trying to play a particular rugby style, it was similar to their traditional running game.

"We're trying to play a specific brand of rugby, we're trying to be united as a group and we're trying to excite and put out some good performances."

"We're trying to be more consistent with our performance."

It was true that there were times when fans didn't know what to expect from the Hurricanes.

"But we're trying to be united as a group, with our connection, and to be excited about how we play. If we can do that consistently week in and week out, we won't get tripped up in a quarterfinal; we'll push through to the semis and the final.

"That's important for us. We've focused on our connection outside of rugby and how we can come closer, learning a bit more about the Hurricanes and where we're from – the region. That helps on the field. You trust guys a little more, you trust the system more, and you're willing to do things and risk things, and sometimes that becomes not a 50:50 but an 80:20 or a 70:30.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, we're just trying to do things a little better."    

Shields has a significant role to play in achieving that since taking on the leadership. The thought of captaining the side was daunting when first asked, and he was unsure how to answer coach Clark Laidlaw.

It was an honour. He wanted to say 'yes' straight away and did.

"But it's something where you want to be respected in that position, and the only way I can gain that respect from guys with whom I haven't played a lot of rugby is through leading by action and helping out and bringing some experience to the group.

"That's what I'm trying to do: get to know the guys on a different level. That's what you want in a leader: someone who is personable, who holds high standards and who's really competitive, so, hopefully, I can bring that."

Having had six seasons of European rugby, the main difference from when he left the Hurricanes in 2018 was that he probably worked a little smarter than he used to.

"I don't think my style of game has changed too much although I'll probably need my running shoes  on going back to Super Rugby. There might be more of that [running] going on than the more attritional rugby in the UK."

They had been working hard and were conscious that their first competition game was in Perth against the Force in conditions much hotter than those they had been preparing for in Upper Hutt.

Shields said he had no concerns with the Hurricanes' pre-season loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin because it didn't reflect where the team was in its preparation. He didn't play in the game, but they were more disappointed they didn't get more out of it.

"The score doesn't reflect how you're tracking. We're in a pretty good spot, but at the end of the day, you have got to get a win to gain that confidence and trust that you are doing the right thing in training."

They would take the lessons from it and put effort into this week's game against Moana Pasifika at Upper Hutt, their first game at their new training facility.

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