Tony Coughlan Wellington Prop
Jason Hooper Taranaki Prop
Tony Penn Taranaki Prop
Gordon Slater Taranaki Prop
Shane Carter Wellington Hooker
Andrew Hore Taranaki Hooker
Milton Ngauamo Wellington Lock
Paul Tito Taranaki Lock
Dion Waller Wellington Lock
Luke Andrews Wellington Loose forward/lock
Jerry Collins Wellington Flanker/No.8
Campbell Feather Taranaki No.8
Rodney So'oialo Wellington Flanker
Brent Thompson Taranaki Loose forward
Kupu Vanisi Wellington Flanker
Brendan Haami Taranaki Halfback
Jason Spice Wellington Halfback
David Holwell Wellington 1st 5/8
Riki Flutey 1st 5/8 / Halfback
Pita Alatini Wellington 2nd 5/8
Bryce Robins Taranaki Midfield back
Shannon Paku Wellington Centre
Tana Umaga Wellington Centre
Lome Fa'atau Wellington Wing
Brad Fleming Wellington Wing
Jonah Lomu Wellington Wing
Christian Cullen Wellington Fullback
Daryl Lilley Taranaki Fullback
So these 30 guys are the ones who are going to have another "entertaining crack at the elusive trophy". And all evidence shows that this may be the most credible attempt yet. At last we've got rid of Norm Hewitt who's finally realised he's no good at Rugby anymore and has taken up a career in having biographies written about his life. Now I'll go into some depth about why this team is a much improved team and has a good chance to win the comp next year.
Props: Gordon Slater probably has loosehead, but the other is really up for grabs. The propping department is probably the Hurricane's biggest liability. If you look at the other teams most of them have at least one big name - Blues have Kees Meuews, Crusaders have the best two props in the country, etc.. Unfortunately the Hurricanes don't compare.
Hooker: After finally getting rid of Norm, Shane Carter is there to fill the void, and he's not doing badly either. Showed great NPC form and usually found his man in the lineouts.
Locks: For those who saw the Wellington VS North Harbour match you will remember Dion Waller was everywhere. He performed a couple of clearing kicks, a great touchfinder, was solid in the lineouts did some great tackles and looked for a moment like having an attempt at a drop goal! He looks like the partner for Chris Jack in the All Blacks to me. In the Hurricanes, Paul Tito looks to be the other lock.
Loosies: Jerry Collins at No. 8, Rodney So'oialo for one of the flankers and the other flanker is a bit trickier. I'd pick Kupu Vanisi by a whisker.
Halfback: Jason Spice. He hasn't been in the best of form of late, but he is experienced and can recover. Unfortunately, it must be said that he is part of the worst NZ Super 12 inside back combination along with.......
1st 5/8: ....... David Holwell. The only current New Zealand Super 12 1st 5/8 not ever considered for the All Blacks at some point. With the most lethal midfield and back three in the world outside them, Holwell and Spice must work hard to unleash them. However - Holwell IS an excellent goalkicker, so maybe we SHOULD find a place for him in the All Blacks!
2nd 5/8: Pita Alatini. Powerful, sidestepping and reasonably quick just like his midfield partner...
Centre: ...Tana Umaga. The main weakness of this incredible midfield will be if injury strikes either of them. DAMN! WHY DID WE HAVE TO LOSE PAUL STEINMETZ?
Wings: Jonah and Lome Fa'atau should do the trick. Jonah is the strongest runner in world rugby and whatever people might say, still a damn good player that no team wants to have to tackle when he's running at his remarkably quick pace. Lome Fa'atau showed great NPC form too; don't be surprised if his name comes up in Mitch's list sometime in the future.
Fullback: Cullen is the best fullback in the world. No argument. The rest over the summer and his subsequent return to his brilliant self during the Hurricanes campaign 2002 will stave off any challenges from those other two pretenders - who were they again? Leon Blair and Ben MacDonald or something. Not only the best fullback, but in the words of Tana Umaga, the best PLAYER in the world.
The Hurricanes have a lot going for them in 2002. Three of the world's rugby superstars, several other All Blacks, the biggest crowds and most loyal fans in the world: with Shane Carter they will shake the awful lineouts label they have had in the "Norm Era", and they have in Dion Waller a lock who looks like the next John Eales the way he's kicking (crossing fingers, hoping for a 4th superstar).
In my humble opinion the championship ladder will look like this:
If the Hurricanes can beat the Crusaders at the WestpacTrust Stadium (which they will as long as we don't get Steve Walsh as ref), then they can travel to Ballymore for a very exciting and close grand final indeed.
Can the Hurricanes do it? By gum, I think they can.