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Hurricanes confirm New Plymouth Sharks date

By : Taranaki Daily News|Updated: 2011-11-18

The Hurricanes hiatus is over for Taranaki rugby fans after the franchise confirmed they will play the Sharks at Yarrow Stadium on Good Friday.

It will be just the second time in six years that the Wellington-based side will trek north to New Plymouth to play a Super Rugby match, the last being in 2009 when they hosted the lowly Cheetahs in front of a crowd of just under 7000.

The lead-up to the match, and the previous Hurricanes game against an equally poorly performing Western Force side in 2006, were punctuated by thinly veiled threats from the Hurricanes board about its expectations around what sort of crowd it expected.

Those days appear over, however, with the Hurricanes having a fraction of the pulling power they once enjoyed.

The arrival of controversial coach Mark Hammett and the departure of respected World Cup-winning players Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu and Aaron Cruden from the franchise has left the Hurricanes needing to build some pretty substantial bridges with fans.

Nevertheless, a strong Taranaki contingent in the form of Michael Bent, Jason Eaton, James Broadhurst, Beauden Barrett, Jayden Hayward and Andre Taylor should be enough to pique the interest of rugby fans in the region for the April 6 game.

The round seven match will be just the third home game for the Hurricanes in 2012 in a schedule that will see the side open their season with away matches to the Stormers, Lions and Western Force before they host the Highlanders, travel away to the Blues and return to Wellington to face the Cheetahs. Just where they sit on the table after that period could also have a bearing on how full the stands are at Yarrow Stadium.

Taranaki Rugby boss Mark Robinson was upbeat about prospects for the match, which will also see the return of Hawera-born Sharks coach John Plumtree.

Robinson was also naturally pleased to have a side in the calibre of the Sharks to promote as opposition for the Hurricanes.

"It's great to have the Hurricanes back in the region, especially over Easter Weekend," he said.

"It's exciting to have such a good representation (of Taranaki players). I think the last time they played here we didn't have that."

Robinson had been in discussions with Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni for several weeks about New Plymouth hosting the match.

He confirmed yesterday the New Plymouth District Council was not required to underwrite the match as security for the Hurricanes.

"They wanted to bring it here and we wanted to have it, so that's always a good starting point," he said.

Ad Feedback Taranaki club rugby matches which have also been scheduled for Good Friday could be played earlier, just as happened when the All Blacks hosted Ireland in New Plymouth last year.

Source: Taranaki Daily News