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Perenara pumped for Super Rugby opener

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/02/2017

A dearth of uninjured halfbacks for the Hurricanes has meant an early start to the Super Rugby season for TJ Perenara, but it's not something the All Blacks No.9 is too concerned about.

While All Blacks guns Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles will be on the bench against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, Perenara will be in the thick of it, leading the defending champions in Saturday's historic clash.

It is the Sunwolves' first-ever game against Kiwi opposition, having gone without in their inaugural 2016 campaign, in which they finished last on the overall ladder.

First five-eighth Barrett and hooker Coles are being eased into 2017, and coach Chris Boyd makes no apologies for his approach.

"Beauden and Dane are both following their return to play protocols and part of that is that they were always going to have a graduated entry into the Super Rugby season," he said.

"They're both key guys for us and there is no benefit in pushing them any faster than we need to, but they'll both have a part to play in Tokyo."

Maori All Blacks playmaker Otere Black will wear No.10 while Coles' hooking spot goes to Ricky Riccitelli.

Perenara isn't too fazed about the early start to his season.

"I'm always keen to get back out there. If I had an opportunity to play all the pre-season games and the 10s, I'd probably put my hand up for that too," he said.

With Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Kylem O'Donnell still working their way back from injury, Boyd had little option other than Perenara at halfback.

"At the end of the day, had Triple T and Kylem been fit, it may have been a slightly different decision around TJ," he said.

"But while he's our only fit contracted halfback, he'll continue to carry that role."

Perenara has a little inside knowledge of former Wellingtonian Hayden Cripps, running at first-five for the Sunwolves.

"He plays a style of footy I quite like - he's smart at his end of the field, and when he gets down the other end, he's an elusive player," Perenara said.

"We can expect them to throw the ball around a little, and they don't give up.

"They work relentlessly on defence and we know that we've got to put a lot of work in to make sure we do get over the line."

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

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