Hurricanes (rugby union)
|Union||New Zealand Rugby Union|
|Location||Wellington, New Zealand|
|Ground(s)||Westpac Stadium (Capacity: 40,000)|
Ma'a Nonu &|
Conrad Smith (126)
|Top scorer||Beauden Barrett (849)|
1st (New Zealand Conference)
1st (Australasian Group)
The Hurricanes (formerly known as the Wellington Hurricanes) are a New Zealand professional Rugby union team based in Wellington that competes in the Super Rugby competition composed of 18 teams from New Zealand, Argentina, Japan, Australia and South Africa. The team represents the East Coast, Hawke's Bay, Horowhenua Kapiti, Manawatu, Poverty Bay, Wairarapa-Bush, Wanganui and Wellington unions, and currently plays at Westpac Stadium, having previously played at the now-defunct Athletic Park.
The Hurricanes were formed to represent the lower North Island with the conception of the Super 12 competition in 1996, which featured teams from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The Hurricanes had a poor first season, but rebounded in 1997 with a third placing. The team did not reach the play-offs for another five years as the team struggled in the bottom four of the table. Since 2003 the Hurricanes have made the post-season play-offs seven times out of the last fourteen seasons; including the 2006 final, which they lost in horrendously foggy weather against the Crusaders 19–12. After hosting, but failing to win the final in 2015, the 2016 season was the Hurricanes best season to date. They won the Super Rugby Final 20-3 against the Lions, after again finishing the regular season first and hosting the final.
Early years: 1996–97
The Hurricanes were formed in 1996 as one of five New Zealand Super 12 teams, and were originally called the "Wellington Hurricanes". The team's first coach was former All Black Frank Oliver while Bull Allen was named as captain. Their first match, played at Palmerston North Showgrounds against the Auckland Blues, was the first ever Super Rugby match. They lost it 36–28. The team performed below expectations in the inaugural year of the competition and finished ninth. In 1997 the team made the semi-finals, losing in Canberra to the ACT Brumbies. However the consistent form shown during this season would not be seen again for many years.
Expect the unexpected: 1998–2002
Following their 1997 season, the Hurricanes failed to qualify for the semi-finals until 2003. Despite this, they were still known for the attacking nature of their backline that included the All Blacks stars Tana Umaga and Christian Cullen. The team played with flair and could score at any moment, whatever their position on the field, giving rise to the teams catch cry of 'expect the unexpected'. However the team struggled for consistent performances and at crunch time in matches, leading to patchy form and results.
After the 1999 World Cup, Jonah Lomu's contract with the NZRU expired he was linked to many clubs around the world, in rugby league as well as union and also the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. On 23 November 1999 it was announced that the winger had resigned from the NZRU and agreed terms with the Wellington Rugby Union, despite a reported a £1.1 million offer by Bristol. The move to the Wellington union meant he could be included in the protected group of players for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes also opened 2000 with a new stadium. The highlights of that year included the victory over eventual champions the Crusaders, 41–29, in front of a packed house. At the end of the season the 'Canes still had a mathematical chance of making the semis and only had to beat the Bulls to stay in contention. However, the Hurricanes played one of their worst games of the year, losing the match to one of the worst performing teams at that point in the competition's history and lost the possibility of qualifying for the semi-finals. The team finished eighth on the table.
Despite the Wellington Lions (whom most of the Hurricanes squad were chosen from) winning the 2000 NPC, the Hurricanes finished ninth in the final standings in 2001; one worse than the year before. Another ninth placing in 2002 resulted in Graham Mourie, who had led the team since 2000, resigning.
New era: since 2003
In spite of reports that Colin Cooper, the then Crusaders assistant-coach, had said he was "not yet ready to jump ship" and wanted to stay with the South Island franchise, the Hurricanes were able to lure him away from the champions and made him their head coach for the 2003 season.
Cooper, along with newly appointed captain Tana Umaga, helped to mould the inconsistent and ill-disciplined Hurricanes into one of the top teams in the competition. 2003 was the beginning of a new era for the Hurricanes as they reached the semi-finals for just the second time in their history on the back of a strong seven-game winning streak mid-season. Their success came partly with the break-out year for mid-fielder Ma'a Nonu, his strong performances and partnership with captain Tana Umaga pushed out former All Black Pita Alatini and saw him score six tries en route to the All Black squad. The team also benefited from the steady hand of David Holwell at first five-eighth and an improving and mobile forward pack. Hurricanes stalwart Christian Cullen would leave New Zealand shores for Irish club Munster after his omission from the All Blacks 2003 World Cup squad, despite scoring eight tries during the season.
The majority of the team was retained< for 2005. including new centre Conrad Smith. The Hurricanes came back in 2005 to the form that saw them make the playoffs two years prior. Former New Zealand Colt Flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth was the real "find" of the season, scoring 139 points, which helped offset the departure of David Holwell to Ireland. The Hurricanes had tried to sign Australian playmaker Brock James, who had starred the previous NPC season for Taranaki and the Blues, and young star Luke McAlister indicated that he would like to play in Wellington. With both Daniel Carter and Aaron Mauger at the Crusaders capable of playing first five-eighth the team also made an attempt to lure Andrew Mehrtens to Wellington, without success.
In 2006 two new teams entered the competition, the Bloemfontein-based Central Cheetahs from South Africa and the Perth-based Western Force from Australia, creating the Super 14. Rodney So'oialo was appointed captain of the Hurricanes to succeed former All Black captain Tana Umaga. The team won all but four matches. They made their first Super Rugby final but lost to the Crusaders in a match played under thick fog. Following the match there was an incident in a nightclub involving Chris Masoe and Tana Umaga. The club finances benefitted from on-pitch success, with NZ$1.36 million profit on its 2006 turnover of NZ$7.44 million.
The Hurricanes returned to the semi-finals in both 2008 and 2009, however were unable to capture the same success in subsequent seasons. 2011 saw the arrival of Mark Hammett as coach and the departure of Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu.
The Hurricanes finished 11th in the 2013 Super Rugby season.
2015 saw the Hurricanes finish first in the regular season, topping the table with 66 points and a win-loss record of 14–2 in round robin play. The Hurricanes picked up the New Zealand Conference trophy after beating the Highlanders. After beating the Brumbies in the semi-final, the Hurricanes lost the final against the Highlanders 21–14. It was the final Super Rugby match for Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Jeremy Thrush – all Hurricanes that have played over 100 caps.
2016 was a big year for the Hurricanes finishing first overall on the points table, despite sitting in 7th going into the final round of the regular season. This saw them go into the quarter finals against the Sharks winning 41-0 at Westpac Stadium. They carried on to the semi finals playing the Chiefs and winning 25-9 at Westpac Stadium. The Hurricanes played the Lions in the final, winning the game 20-3 at Westpac Stadium. This was the first time in Super Rugby history that the Hurricanes won the title. It was Victor Vito's final and 100th game for the Hurricanes.
Super 12/14 (1996–2010)
- Runners-up (1)
- Playoff Appearances (5)
Super Rugby (2011–present)
- New Zealand Conference Champions (2)
- Championship Runners-up
- Championship Winners
The team represents the East Coast, Poverty Bay, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, Manawatu, Wairarapa-Bush, Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wellington unions. In 2013, Taranaki severed its ties with the franchise, signing over its allegiance to the Chiefs.
The Hurricanes play the majority of their home matches at the 34,500 capacity Westpac Stadium on Wellington's waterfront. The stadium is affectionately known as The Cake-Tin in Wellington and throughout New Zealand due to its shape. It was opened in 2000 to replace Athletic Park, where the team had been previously based. Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North and McLean Park in Napier have also played host to Hurricanes matches.
In the initial years of the competition the Hurricanes played once, or occasionally twice, away from their Wellington base depending on whether they had five or six games per year. Such a policy was welcomed given the large geographic area that the team was drawn from. However, in recent years the team has seldom ventured from Wellington, despite the expansion to 14 and now 15 teams meaning two additional games per year.
|Central Energy Trust Arena||Westpac Stadium||McLean Park|
|Capacity: 15,000||Capacity: 40,000||Capacity: 22,000|
Ownership and Finances
In 2012, it was announced that a new company, Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership, had purchased a license from the NZRU to operate the club. Whilst the NZRU retains ownership of the team, as well as control of the contracts of the players and head coach, the licensee is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations. Hurricanes' Investment Ltd Partnership is a joint venture between the Wellington Rugby Football Union and a consortium of private investors, led by noted economist and author Gareth Morgan.
The Hurricanes have fielded a development team in competitions such as the Pacific Rugby Cup and in matches against other representative teams for several seasons. Known as the Hurricanes Development XV, the squad is selected from the best emerging rugby talent in the Hurricanes catchment area and is composed of Hurricanes contracted players, wider training group members, under 20s, and selected club players.
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The squad for the 2017 Super Rugby season:
|Hurricanes Super Rugby squad|
First Five-Eighths (Fly-halves)
|(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped.|
Current internationally capped players
- Inoke Afeaki*
- Bull Allen
- Sireli Bobo
- Jerry Collins
- Aaron Cruden
- Christian Cullen
- Jason Eaton
- Tamati Ellison
- Bryn Evans
- Ben Franks
- Hosea Gear
- David Holwell
- Andrew Hore
- Alama Ieremia
- Jonah Lomu
- Ma'a Nonu
- Jon Preston
- John Schwalger
- Gordon Slater
- Conrad Smith
- Rodney So'oialo
- Jason Spice
- Jeremy Thrush
- Neemia Tialata
- Filo Tiatia
- Tana Umaga
- Kupu Vanisi
- Dion Waller
- Piri Weepu
- Riki Flutey
- Frank Oliver (1996–99)
- Graham Mourie(2000–02)
- Colin Cooper (2003–10)
- Mark Hammett (2011–14)
- Chris Boyd (2015–)
- John Plumtree assistant coach (2015–)
- Clark Laidlaw technical advisor (2015–)
- Richard Watt technical advisor (2015–)
- Bull Allen (1996–98, 30 games - Captain)
- Jon Preston (1998, 3 games, Allen injured)
- Norm Hewitt (1998-2000, 15 games - Captain)
- Jason O'Halloran (1999, 8 games, Hewitt injured)
- Gordon Slater (2001-2002, 22 games - Captain)
- Tana Umaga (2003–05, 35 games - Captain)
- Jerry Collins (2004, 3 games, Umaga injured)
- Rodney So'oialo (2006–09, 49 games - Captain)
- Paul Tito (2007, 1 game, So'oialo injured)
- Tamati Ellison (2009, 1 game, So'oialo injured)
- Andrew Hore (2010–11, 28 games - Captain)
- Victor Vito (2011, 2 games, Hore rested; 2013, 1 game)
- Jeremy Thrush (2014, 3 games, C. Smith injured)
- Conrad Smith (2007, 1 game; 2012–15, 60 games)
- Dane Coles (2015, 1 game, C. Smith rested) (2016–present Captain)
The above is a comprehensive list of Hurricanes captains. Official captains are named in the list as "Captain".
|Super Rugby Champions
2016 (First title)
| Succeeded by|
to be confirmed