Hurricanes (rugby union)

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File:Wellington Hurricanes logo.png
Union New Zealand Rugby Union
Founded 1996
Location Wellington, New Zealand
Region East Coast
Hawke's Bay
Horowhenua Kapiti
Poverty Bay
Ground(s) Westpac Stadium 34,500
Arena Manawatu 15,000
McLean Park 22,500
Coach(es) Chris Boyd
Captain(s) Dane Coles
Most caps Conrad Smith (126)
Ma'a Nonu (126)
Top scorer Beauden Barrett (690)
League(s) Super Rugby
2015 2nd
Team kit
2nd kit
Official website

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.[1][2]

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 five times out of the last eight seasons; including the 2006 final, which they lost in horrendously foggy weather against the Crusaders 19–12. The 2015 season has been the Hurricanes best season to date after they finished the regular season first overall and hosted their first Super Rugby 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 Mark "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.[3] 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.[3][4] 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,[5] 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.[6]

New era: since 2003

The Hurricanes playing the Highlanders at Westpac Stadium in 2006

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,[7] 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.[8] 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.

All Black great Jonah Lomu was left out of the 2004 squad, due to a life-threatening illness that would eventually result in a kidney transplant. He would never again play for the Hurricanes.

The majority of the team was retained< for 2005.[9] including new centre Conrad Smith.[10] 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[11] and the Blues, and young star Luke McAlister indicated that he would like to play in Wellington.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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. Prior to the game they were told of the tragic death of former Hurricane Jerry Collins, who some players had played alongside. After beating the Brumbies in the Semi-final, the Hurricanes had a chance to win the championship with a sold-out home Super Rugby Final against the Highlanders. They lost this final 21–14. It was a heartbreaking result, and the final Super Rugby match for Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Jeremy Thrush – all Hurricanes that have played over 100 caps.


Super 12/14 (1996–2010)

  • Runners-up (1)


  • Playoff Appearances (5)

1997, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009

Super Rugby (2011–2015)

  • New Zealand Conference (1)


  • Championship Runners-up (1)


Franchise area

Hurricanes' catchment area.

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.[15]


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. Arena Manawatu 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.


The Hurricanes had amongst the most loyal fans in the competition in the early and middle years of the Super 12. In recent years, support has declined with significantly poorer crowds at Westpac Stadium. This decline in support was exacerbated in 2011, with the announcement of the departure of several notable players for the 2012 season. Other influences of note in the support base include the Wellington centredness of the franchise, as games held in the other provinces in the catchment, have been few and far between, as have players from these provinces. For these two reasons, support has declined rapidly for the Hurricanes.[citation needed]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Development team

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.[18]

Season-by-Season summary

Super 12 Results[19]
Year Played Won Drawn Lost For Against +/- BP Points Place Playoffs
1996 11 3 0 8 290 353 −63 5 17 9th
1997 11 6 0 5 416 314 +102 10 34 3rd Lost semi-final to Brumbies 33 – 20
1998 11 5 0 6 313 342 −29 6 26 8th
1999 11 4 1 6 213 226 −13 4 22 10th
2000 11 6 0 5 308 329 −21 5 29 8th
2001 11 5 0 6 291 316 −25 5 25 9th
2002 11 5 0 6 232 317 −85 3 23 9th
2003 11 7 0 4 324 277 +47 7 35 3rd Lost semi-final to Crusaders 39 – 16
2004 11 4 1 6 275 303 −28 5 23 11th
2005 11 8 0 3 281 248 +33 2 34 4th Lost semi-final to Crusaders 47 – 7
Super 14 Results
Year Played Won Drawn Lost For Against +/- BP Points Place Playoffs
2006 13 10 0 3 328 226 +102 7 47 2nd Lost final to Crusaders 19 – 12
2007 13 6 0 7 247 300 −53 3 27 5th
2008 13 8 1 4 310 204 +106 7 41 3rd Lost semi-final to Crusaders 33 – 22
2009 13 9 0 4 380 279 +101 8 44 3rd Lost semi-final to Chiefs 14 – 10
2010 13 7 1 5 358 323 +35 7 37 8th
Super Rugby Results
Year Played Won Drawn Lost For Against +/- BP Points Place Playoffs
2011 16 5 2 9 328 398 −70 10 42 4th Conference / 9th Overall
2012 16 10 0 6 489 429 +60 9 57 3rd Conference / 8th Overall
2013 16 6 0 10 386 457 −71 9 41 4th Conference / 11th Overall
2014 16 8 0 8 439 374 +65 9 41 4th Conference / 7th Overall
2015 16 14 0 2 458 288 +170 10 66 1st Conference / 1st Overall Lost final to Highlanders 21 – 14


Current squad

The squad for the 2016 Super Rugby season:[20]

Hurricanes Super Rugby squad




Loose forwards

Halfbacks (Scrum-halves)

First Five-Eighths (Fly-halves)

Midfielders (Centres)



(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped, WTG denotes Wider Training Group players, ME denotes Medical Exemptions.
ST denotes players not initially included in the named squad, but subsequently signed on a short-term deal.

Players and coaches of note

Internationally capped players

Former Internationals


Assistant Coaches

  • John Plumtree assistant coach (2015–)
  • Clark Laidlaw technical advisor (2015–)
  • Richard Watt technical advisor (2015–)



  1. "Locations – Westpac Stadium". Retrieved 20 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Amie Mills. "Cake Tin lacks a certain build-up to the game?". Victoria University of Wellington. Archived from the original on 3 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Chase on for All Black Lomu". 6 November 1999. Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Lomu joins Hurricanes". 23 November 1999. Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "NPC Magic-Season Review 2000".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Mourie quits Hurricanes". 26 June 2002. Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "No Tuf-Of-War over Cooper says NZRFU". Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Hurricanes ride high in rankings". Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Consistency of Selection in Hurricanes Squad". Retrieved 20 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Season Stats 2005". Archived from the original on 7 October 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Brock James knocked back from Hurricanes". Retrieved 20 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "McAlister wants to be a Hurricane". Retrieved 20 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "New Hurricanes Captain". Retrieved 21 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Canes hopeful of tempting Taranaki's finest
  16. "Hurricanes-sold-to-private-investors". Retrieved 12 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "". Retrieved 12 November 2012. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Rugby: Pacific Rugby Cup to feature NZ sides". NZ Herald. 28 January 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Super 14 Tables". Lassen Creative Technologies Ltd. Retrieved 20 September 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Hurricanes stocks in good shape for 2016" (Press release). Hurricanes. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links