Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says the indiscretion that led to the dropping of five players, including three All Blacks, was a minor one, but a team rule had been broken so he had to take a stand.
Wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane, and No.8 Victor Vito, along with openside flanker Ardie Savea and reserve prop Chris Eves, were not considered for selection for the Super Rugby match against the Queensland Reds in Wellington on Saturday night.
The five broke a curfew in the lead-up to the 32-15 defeat to the Sharks in Durban last weekend.
Boyd said the Hurricanes didn’t normally have curfews, but the touring squad themselves put one in place on the way to South Africa.
On the Tuesday night, before a day off for the team, the five players “marginally” missed the deadline for getting back to the hotel.
“This is a 1/10 offence with a 10/10 punishment, but a protocol is a protocol,” Boyd told journalists on Thursday.”
“At the end of the day, it was past where the stick was put in the sand.”
Boyd said the penalty would have been handed down irrespective of which opponents the Hurricanes were facing this weekend.
It wasn’t imposed last week partly because he didn’t find out about the incident until Thursday, and also because removing five players from the numbers available to him on tour wouldn’t have left him with enough players to field a team.
He said the biggest disappointment for him was that the team had been told beforehand about the potential for off-field distractions in Durban.
“The fact that there was an error in judgment post that warning was disappointing,” he said.
However, Boyd, who is in his second season as Hurricanes coach, said the incident was a first in his time in charge and the five players had apologised for what they did.
“None of them are happy they made a poor error of judgment and none of them are happy they are not playing this weekend.”
Julian Savea’s unavailability means a Super Rugby debut for 20-year-old Wes Goosen on the left wing.
Jason Woodward comes in on the right wing for Jane, Blade Thomson replaces Vito, and Callum Gibbins takes over from Ardie Savea.
Loni Uhila takes Eves’ place as loosehead back-up in the reserves.
Hurricanes: James Marshall, Jason Woodward, Matt Proctor, Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (capt), Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu’u, Lonu Uhila, Ben May, Mark Abbott, Tony Lamborn, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Ngani Laumape, Willis Halaholo.