The Hurricanes will welcome rested All Blacks Ardie Savea and Asafo Aumua for Saturday’s crunch Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Highlanders, and perhaps more importantly, first-five Aidan Morgan should be back too.
The 21-year-old’s imminent return from concussion should help offset the likely absence of first-choice playmaker Brett Cameron, who is out with a leg injury in their crazy 45-42 victory over the Force at Palmerston North on Sunday.
The Hurricanes led by 26 points at one point early in the second half, but they threw away a bonus point after coughing up three late tries as the Force staged an unlikely comeback.
Cameron’s injury with eight minutes to play certainly didn’t help.
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The Hurricanes had already emptied their bench when he went down in agony on a tackle, forcing them to finish the game with 14 men.
It was initially feared that Cameron may have suffered a serious leg injury when the referee immediately stopped play and Sky Sport’s cameras turned away, after the one-time All Black clumsily got his leg caught in a tackle.
But despite his obvious discomfort, it was an encouraging sign that he could walk away unassisted.
“It’s always upsetting when you see one of your mates go down like that,” No. 8 Brayden Iose, the two-time first-half goal scorer, said after the game.
“I just hope it’s nothing serious and I hope he’s okay.”
Cameron was due to be assessed on Monday afternoon, but while the Hurricanes sweated over the results of those scans, they were helped by the timely return of Morgan ahead of a crucial fortnight of games, who traveled south on Saturday to play the Highlanders before they hosted the undefeated Chiefs the following weekend.
With Ruben Love yet to appear due to a lingering groin injury and no timeline available for his return, the Hurricanes’ first five stocks would have been decimated without Morgan being available again.
After starting the opening rounds while Cameron returned from an injury suffered in pre-season, Morgan suffered a concussion against the Waratahs and was unavailable for the past two games.
“When you lose players in that position it’s always going to be a little light for you. But we have good quality and Aidan is back in circulation so we’ll assess Brett’s injury first and see what happens from there as we progress coming,” assistant coach Chris Gibbes said.
Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said last week there was no set date for Love to return, having missed the entire preseason with a troublesome groin.
“It’s still a bit slow to be honest. It was clear he would have loved to go back and play in Palmy,” Holland said.
“He’s making progress, but we don’t expect him back in a week or two.
“Nobody knows at the moment and we don’t want to put a time frame on it, but he’s getting better, he’s strengthening his groin, but the most important thing is he’s good when he comes back.
“The danger with Rubes is you bring him back too early and he’s broken for another three or four months, so we have to make sure we get the young guy’s groin right for Rubes’ sake.”
With Love and Morgan sidelined, Counties Manukau’s top five Riley Hohepa was brought into the squad and made his Super Rugby debut off the bench in their big win over Moana Pasifika last weekend.
New Zealand under-20 representative Harry Godrey made his debut in the No. 15 jersey against the Force, but could also be used as a 10-year-old, having played there in the pre-season.