An injury cloud hangs over dynamic flanker Ardie Savea in an otherwise-unchanged Hurricanes starting team to face the Highlanders in the Super Rugby final.
Savea has been bracketed with the squad’s other openside specialist Callum Gibbins for the decider in Wellington on Saturday after damaging knee ligaments during their 29-9 semi-final thumping of the Brumbies.
After a compelling 50-minute performance, Savea limped off and remains in doubt heading into the highly anticipated clash.
There was better news surrounding form winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, who also exited midway through the semi-final, favouring a hamstring injury that has dogged him in recent weeks.
Another ongoing hamstring injury, to All Blacks winger Cory Jane, hasn’t come right and has ruled him out for a second successive game.
There is one change on the bench, where Motu Matu’u has recovered from a knee injury and replaces Brayden Mitchell.
Like the Highlanders, the Hurricanes are title-less and have reached just one previous final.
The match is a sellout, with a crowd of about 36,000 on hand to witness the last Hurricanes game for six departing players, including three long-serving veterans – midfielders Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and lock Jeremy Thrush.
Their exit, along with prop Ben Franks, midfielder Rey Lee-Lo and halfback Chris Smylie means the Hurricanes will be shorn of 468 Super Rugby caps.
Hurricanes: James Marshall, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith (capt), Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea/Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields, James Broadhurst, Jeremy Thrush, Ben Franks, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu’u, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Gibbins/Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson, Chris Smylie, Rey Lee-Lo, Matt Proctor.