Hurricanes to channel Collins for semi-final inspiration

The 34-year-old Collins died in a car crash in France earlier this month, devastating rugby circles in Wellington, where the hulking loose forward had become a cult figure.


Collins prowled across the Wellington turf for eight years with the provincial team, Hurricanes and All Blacks, flexing his bulging biceps and preparing a bone-jarring welcome for anyone who dared run into the space he was covering.

And Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said the Brumbies can expect a similar kind of welcome in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday when his side host their first home semi-final since 2006, when Collins was patrolling the park.

“We will carry Jerry, as we did last week and the week before,” Boyd told reporters on Thursday. “He’s a part of us and it’s a tragedy that he’s not with us anymore.

“He’ll certainly give us some momentum on our D (defence).”

The Hurricanes learned of Collins’ death just before they played the Otago Highlanders on June 5 and destroyed their under-strength compatriots 56-20 in an emotionally charged performance in Napier.

The victory sealed the top-seed for the playoffs and secured home advantage for the semi-finals and final next week, should they win on Saturday.

After years of underperforming, the Hurricanes have impressed with steel in their pack and on defence and led by an All Blacks-laden backline produced breath-taking counter-attacking tries from deep inside their own territory.

The home side will be at virtually full strength with Beauden Barrett returning from a minor calf injury and keen to further press his credentials as the starting flyhalf for the All Blacks at this year’s World Cup.

All Blacks winger Cory Jane will miss the match with a minor hamstring tear that, according to Boyd, was almost fully repaired but causing just enough discomfort to rule him out of contention.

The Brumbies have trained just once this week after they returned from South Africa, where they destroyed the Stormers in Cape Town, though have lost winger Henry Speight, who received a five-week ban for a dangerous tackle.

Brumbies prop Scott Sio is expected to earn his 50th Super Rugby cap in the match, though he could find himself targeted by the vastly improved Hurricanes pack.

The Brumbies scrum is a weak point with the side having the second lowest success rate in the competition at 82 percent, while they have also conceded the second most penalties (50).

(Editing by John O’Brien)