Skip to main content

History of the Hurricanes

Born out of the advent of professional rugby at the end of 1995, nine New Zealand provincial rugby unions came together to form the Hurricanes for the start of the inaugural Super 12 competition in 1996. The Wellington, Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke's Bay, East Coast, Poverty Bay, Wanganui, Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti unions all formed the Hurricanes region. In December 2013 Taranaki changed allegiance to the Chiefs.

The Hurricanes played the very first Super 12 match in 1996 against the Blues in Palmerston North and centre Alama Ieremia scored the competition's first try. Although the Hurricanes lost 28-36 and won just three of 11 matches in the first year against Transvaal, the Highlanders and the Chiefs, the foundations had been laid.

The second season in 1997 was the year the Hurricanes lit up the Super 12. Developing their own brand of 'ruck and run rugby' they galloped into the semi-finals for the first time on the back of a series of exhilarating wins. These included big wins over the Bulls in New Plymouth and the Cheetahs and Highlanders in Wellington, while Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga scored 23 tries between them during the year. 30,400 people packed Athletic Park to see the team defeated narrowly by the Brumbies in the last round, the team they missed out to in the semi-final a a week later in Canberra.

Captain Hurricane joined as the Hurricanes' mascot in 1998 and the side picked up from where they left off the previous season with three consecutive wins, before slipping to eighth. The first two of these victories were in Cape Town and Pretoria, meaning the Hurricanes became the first team to come away from South Africa with the maximum 10 points. They also became the first New Zealand team to defeat the Brumbies in Canberra, a match in which they also lost their founding captain Mark 'Bull' Allen to a career ending neck injury.

After slipping to tenth in 1999 and flattering to deceive under the new motto 'Expect the Unexpected', 2000's eighth placed finish was hugely disappointing after spending much of the competition among the frontrunners. New coaches Graham Mourie and Bryan Willams, a new waterfront stadium in Wellington, a name change to the Hurricanes from the 'Wellington' Hurricanes and the signing of All Blacks superstar Jonah Lomu all boded well for a change in fortunes. They opened the season with a 40-23 win over the Sharks at the new venue and won six from their first ten matches including a 28-22 win over the eventual champions Crusaders. But missing Lomu, Umaga and prop Gordon Slater, they lost their last two matches of the season in South Africa to the Stormers and Bulls and slipped from third to eighth in the last weekend of round-robin play.

With records of five wins and six losses in both 2001 and 2002, the Hurricanes finished ninth in each of thee seasons, but then rebounded in 2003 to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1997. Taranaki and assistant Crusaders coach Colin Cooper took over the head coaching reins in 2003 and appointed Tana Umaga captain, a liaison that brought immediate success. The team lost its first two games to the Crusaders in Christchurch and the Bulls in Napier, but came back to win seven in a row to qualify third. Travelling away to play the Crusaders for the second time in the season, they were defeated 16-39 in the semi-final. Another positive move in 2003 was the team's relocation to its new permanent training base in Newtown in Wellington, while the team farewelled their record try scorer Christian Cullen (56 tries) to Ireland after the semi-final.

2004 wasn't to be a vintage year for the Hurricanes who finished eleventh with just four victories. Although if their 20-21 loss to the Sharks and 26-all draw with the Blues the following week had been wins then they would have comfortably finished mid-table.

This was followed by a stellar 2005. With a dozen new players in the squad the Hurricanes won eight and lost three and reached the semi-finals of the last ever Rebel Sport Super 12 before its expansion to a 14-team competition from 2006. The team was unbeaten in its tour of Australia and South Africa and a successful new leadership structure was put in place that had a positive influence on the team environment and culture. Umaga became the first Hurricanes player to reach a century of appearances, celebrating a first ever win over the Blues in his 100th game. Once again though they lost at the semi-final stage in Christchurch to the Crusaders.

2006 was the Hurricanes' best ever season, reaching the final of the first Super 14. Under new captain Rodney So'oialo the Hurricanes won eleven games from 15 played, with highlights being the their first ever win at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria against the Bulls, wins in consecutive weeks over the Waratahs, including a 16-14 semi-final victory over them at Westpac Stadium, and the try scoring of right winger Lome Fa'atau who led the competition with ten tries.

Unfortunately the final against the Crusaders was ruined as a spectacle with a pall of mist descending on AMI Stadium in Christchurch. The Crusaders scored the game's only try to take the title 19-12. Long-serving first five-eighth David Holwell finally hung up his Huricanes boots at the end of 2006 after scoring a team record 676 points in his 76 matches from 1998-2004 and 2006.

Once more came the relative lows in 2007 after the highs of the previous season's success. They faced an uphill battle from the start, deprived of six All Blacks for the first seven rounds who were all held back in the Rugby World Cup 'reconditioning' squad and finished eighth. They did however achieve several excellent wins at Westpac Stadium, including a memorable defeat of eventual champions the Bulls.Umaga, lock Paul Tito, Lome Fa'atau and lock/flanker Luke Andrews all played their final games for the Hurricanes together in the final game of the season in Wellington against the Waratahs.

The Hurricanes reached the semi-finals once more in 2008, for the fifth time and fourth time in six seasons under the coaching of Cooper. Once more they played the Crusaders in Christchurch in the knockout stages and again were defeated, this time 22-33. Ma'a Nonu was the star of the backline scoring seven tries in 11 games, while hooker Andrew Hore led the forwards with a super consistent year. The 2008 Super 14 season was also one of change, played under the new IRB Experimental Law Variations (ELVS). Popular loose forward Jerry Collins also left for overseas at the end of 2008 after 85 matches and eight seasons.

The Hurricanes finished a credible third at the end of the 2009 round-robin series, the fifth time in the past seven seasons that they had made the top four. But like three out of four of these recent playoff seasons before them, they failed to progress to the final, losing to the Chiefs 10-14 in Hamilton. Their season record of nine wins from 13 round robin games was their second best ever in terms of wins in the round-robin stage, behind 2006 when they had 10 victories from 13 round robin matches. In 2009 The Hurricanes were the leading attacking side at the end of the round-robin, ending the season with 390 points and exactly 50 tries for the year. Individually, Ma'a Nonu was the competition's leading try-scorer with nine tries.

2010 was the final year in charge of the Hurricanes for Head Coach Colin Cooper, who bowed out after eight years and 104 games at the helm. Cooper had guided the team to the playoffs in 2003, 2005, 2006 (final), 2008 and 2009.

The franchise's 2010 campaign was a roller coaster one. The franchise won its first three games, lost the next four - all to South African opposition - launched a four-game winning streak, then dipped out of contention in the last game where a win over the Waratahs would have been enough to reach the semi-finals again.

Andrew Hore took over the captaincy for 2010 from Rodney So'oialo who had led the team to the playoffs three times since 2006. It was a notable year So'oialo becoming the second Hurricanes player to reach 100 games for the franchise.

Their season record was won seven, lost five and drawn one in 13 matches. Winger David Smith was the leading try scorer with seven tries and halfback Piri Weepu the leading points scorer with 75.

2011 was another year of change off the field and a difficult season results-wise on it. The Hurricanes had a new Head Coach, Mark Hammett a former Crusaders Super Rugby-winning and All Blacks Test hooker.

Leaky defence and poor on-field discipline by senior players were key themes for the Hurricanes in 2011, who won five and drew two of their 16 matches in the first year of the new expanded 15-team competition and associated Conference system and six-team playoffs series. The Hurricanes finished ninth overall and fourth in the New Zealand Conference.

Nevertheless, there were some memorable wins in 2011, including beating the the eventual champions the Reds 28-26 in Wellington and beating (29-26) and drawing with (18-18) the overall regular season winners the Chiefs in two matches.

The final match, the rescheduled 'away' fixture against the Crusaders was played at Westpac Stadium in Wellington and was the last game for the Hurricanes of long- serving players, Andrew Hore, midfielder Ma'a Nonu, props Neemia Tialata and John Schwalger (to return later in 2013), wing Hosea Gear and halfback Piri Weepu. Captain Hore and Nonu had both reached 100 games for the Hurricanes during the season.

2012 saw a much improved Hurricanes season and one in which they finished just outside the playoffs in eighth place but just two points away from qualification. The Hurricanes headed into their last round match against the Chiefs still hopeful of a playoff berth but just missed out despite winning this match 28-25.

2012 will be remembered for some of the thrilling attacking rugby that the team played, scoring a franchise record 58 tries in 16 matches.

Individually, there were several breakout seasons by some players. First five-eighth Beauden Barrett had a stellar debut season, as did halfback TJ Perenara and prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen. Fullback Andre Taylor sparked much of their attacking play from the back and scored 10 tries himself. Other players to play well in 2012 included hooker Dane Coles, who later made the All Blacks for the first time, wing Cory Jane and captain and centre Conrad Smith who in December won the New Zealand Rugby Super Rugby Player of the Award at the annual end of the season Awards.

In 2013, the franchise struggled to build on their gains made the previous season, resulting in another season finishing off the pace.

Once again, leaky defence let them down again at crucial times throughout the campaign while their attack failed to fire like it had in 2012. In conceding 49 tries at over 28 points per game, the Hurricanes finished the season in 11th overall and fourth in the New Zealand Conference.

There was hope early in the season when they beat the Crusaders and then won their next three matches as well. But further losses left them realistically needing to win all their final three matches after the month-long international break to make the playoffs. Losses to the Chiefs, the Highlanders and the Crusaders meant ended these hopes.

The Hurricanes welcomed Ben Franks from the Crusaders and he shored up the front row, while lock Jeremy Thrush had his best season to date and won selection in the All Blacks for their mid-year Tests. In the halves, TJ Perenara and Barrett were again key players, while wings Julian Savea and Alapati Leiua were always dangerous. 

The Hurricanes had 26 players returning from the 2013 season, with the addition of newcomers Mark Abbott, Marty Banks, Cardiff Vaega and Hadleigh Parkes. Prop John Schwalger also made a return to Super Rugby after a successful campaign with the Wellington Lions, while former wider training group member Ash Dixon steps into the 32-man squad.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder emerged as not only one of the Hurricanes star players, but also forcing his way into the All Blacks World Cup squad. First five Beauden Barrett dazzled on a weekly basis and scored 121 points, James Broadhurst displayed freakish athleticism, halfback TJ Perenara scorched in for 11 tries, and Julian Savea steamrolled his way to eight. 

But for all the individual highlights, 2015 was defined by the Hurricanes collective efforts. Rarely has the club seen such a united and cohesive side.

Under first year coach Chris Boyd and his assistant John Plumtree the squad won 14 of 16 matches in a magical run to the Super Rugby final, their first appearance in the season finale since 2006.

It was a dream run for the Hurricanes fans, who packed into Westpac Stadium for a home semifinal against the Brumbies, then a final against the Highlanders.

The Brumbies were dispatched 29-9 with the Savea brothers Julian and Ardie, Perenara and wing Matt Proctor all scoring tries to send the crowd into raptures. Unfortunately, the fairy tale finish wasn't to be as the Hurricanes lost a heart stopping final the following week, 21-14 to the Highlanders. 

The loss was a blow for departing Hurricanes veterans Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Jeremy Thrush, but their final season with the club was a memorable one nonetheless.

History was made in 2016 as the Hurricanes broke a 21-year drought to win the Investec Super Rugby trophy for the first time.

The season finale saw heroic captain Dane Coles lift the trophy above his head after a comprehensive 20-3 win over the Lions from South Africa.

The fairy tale finish unfolded in front of a sold out crowd at Westpac Stadium, a ground the club and fans had dubbed Our House for the final, sparking emotional scenes including No.8 Victor Vito's farewell speech after his 100th match for the club.

It was a first Super Rugby title for coaches Chris Boyd and John Plumtree too as they plotted a near flawless campaign that saw the Hurricanes lose just four regular season matches before sweeping aside the Sharks and Chiefs in the quarterfinal and semi-final respectively.

The season had not started well with a 52-10 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra prompting Australian commentator Phil Kearns to infamously suggest the team were "fat, slow and unfit."

There were plenty of Hurricanes heroes in 2016, but few as obvious as Coles who lead the team into the final despite cracking the cartilage in his ribs during the quarterfinal and sitting out the semi-final.

During the season it was halves TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, along with fullback James Marshall who ran the show. Barrett finished with 223 points including nine tries.

The result was a maiden title, euphoric scenes at Westpac Stadium, and a memorable trophy tour throughout the Hurricanes region.

The Hurricanes’ attempt to defend their Super Rugby title ended on a hot afternoon at Ellis Park in July when they were beaten 44-29 by the Lions.

Having finished the regular season as runners-up to the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference the Hurricanes prevailed 35-16 over the Brumbies in Canberra. 

That saw the Hurricanes head to South Africa where they let a healthy 22-3 first half lead slip as the Lions finished the stronger of the two sides.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of positives to take out of 2017.

Midfielder Ngani Laumape was in devastating form throughout, ending the season as the competition’s top try scorer as he crossed a record 15 times. The 24-year-old was one of only two players in the Hurricanes squad to start every match, the other being Brad Shields.

Laumape’s form also saw him elevated to the All Blacks while he was named Hurricanes Player of the Year.

The arrival of fullback Jordie Barrett was also significant for the Hurricanes. Barrett played in all 18 of the Hurricanes matches and started in 14 of them, scoring 133 points, including seven tries, along the way.

The final year of Chris Boyd’s tenure as head coach ended the same as it had in 2017 with the Hurricanes beaten semi-finalists.

Despite the season starting with a disappointing loss to the Bulls, the Hurricanes went on the win a club record 10 matches in a row, including impressive New Zealand derby victories over the Crusaders, Highlanders and Chiefs.

The nature of the competition and its conference system saw the Hurricanes virtually going head-to-head with the Crusaders for top spot, not only in the New Zealand conference but the overall table.

Unfortunately for the Hurricanes away losses to the Crusaders, Highlanders and then the Brumbies just after the June international break saw them have to settle for second spot on the New Zealand conference which placed them fourth overall.

However, it still saw the Hurricanes host a home quarter-final against the Chiefs in Wellington.

While the final score was 32-31, the match was won with 10 minutes to play as the Hurricanes built up a 15-point lead.

The victory saw the Hurricanes travel to Christchurch to meet the defending champion Crusaders who proved too strong, winning the semi-final 30-12.

Despite the loss there were plenty of highlights in 2018, including wing Ben Lam who scored a record 16 tries while Ngani Laumpae was again named Player of the Year.

As well as Boyd, the Hurricanes said goodbye to a number of long-serving club men, including wing Julian Savea and captain Brad Shields who took up contracts in the northern hemisphere.

For a third straight year the Hurricanes season ended with a semi-final loss.

As was the case in 2018, the Hurricanes headed south to meet the two-time defending champion Crusaders in the semi-final.

While they pushed the eventual champions right to the final whistle, the match ended with a 30-26 loss, just their fourth of the season.

Three of those losses came at the hands of the Crusaders while the only other defeat was to the Jaguares who also made the Super Rugby final.

The season started positively for the Hurricanes as they lost just one of their first six matches. A second round robin defeat to the Crusaders was followed five successive victories.

By season’s end the Hurricanes had scored double New Zealand derby wins over the Blues and Highlanders, had a win and a draw over the Chiefs and gone unbeaten on their two-match tour of South Africa.

They also won every match they played against teams from the Australian conference.

Other highlights included halfback TJ Perenara becoming the most capped Hurricanes player with 127 appearances as he overtook Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Perenara also brought up 100 matches in partnership with record points scorer Beauden Barrett while he and outstanding loose forward Ardie Savea were jointly named Hurricanes Player of the Year.