WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks hooker Dane Coles looks set to return to Super Rugby action this weekend after he was named in the Wellington Hurricanes matchday squad to take on South Africa’s Sharks in Durban.
The Hurricanes skipper, who has endured a horror run of injuries over the last two years, has been sidelined by a calf strain since coming off in the 56th minute of the 23-23 draw with the Waikato Chiefs on March 15.
Coles was named on the bench for Saturday’s match at Kings Park, where the 2016 champions will be looking for a win to further cement fourth place in the overall Super Rugby standings, which would earn them a home quarter-final.
Loose forward Gareth Evans, who won his only New Zealand cap against Japan last year, will also start on the bench after an even longer spell in the treatment room with a similar injury.
Beauden Barrett returns at flyhalf after being rested for the home loss to the Jaguares two weeks ago under protocols designed to keep key All Blacks fresh for the Rugby World Cup later this year.
The Sharks have won their last four home matches against New Zealand opposition and need as many points as possible to stay in the tight race for the South African conference title.
“There is no doubt this is a really big challenge for us,” Hurricanes coach John Plumtree said in a news release.
“The Sharks always play well against the Hurricanes, they’re in great form and will be as desperate as us to win and keep pushing for a home playoff spot.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Greg Stutchbury)