6 May 2011

Hurricanes and Blues both under-strength

8:31 am on 6 May 2011

It could be another tough night at home in Wellington for the Hurricanes as they kick off round 12 of the Super Rugby competition against the front-running Blues.

But the under-strength Hurricanes, who are missing key players across the park including their All Blacks midfielders Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, will be encouraged by their upset win over the Queensland Reds last weekend.

Piri Weepu's return from a long-term leg injury's been put back another week at least after a calf strain in club rugby while Luke McAlister's injured for the Blues, who have also lost All Blacks Anthony Borich and Isaia Toeava.

Toeava's been in great form but is now out for the rest of the Super Rugby season after suffering a recurrence of a stress fracture to his hip. He's replaced at fullback by the versatile Jarred Payne.

The Blues may have an even heavier injury toll than their hosts - of the initial 32-man squad coach Pat Lam named at the start of the season, 12 are now out injured.

The Hurricanes must win to retain any faint chances of a playoffs place. They're ninth overall on 23 points, four behind the defending champions from South Africa, the Bulls - whose place in the post-season is by no means assured either.

Halfback Alby Mathewson, midfielder Benson Stanley and utility back Lachie Munro have bolstered the Blues stocks by all re-signing for 2012.