For provincial pride
The Hurricanes’ horror run this season will not put off a promising Wellington Lions side, new coach Andre Bell has promised.
Hurricanes players were excited to return to the Lions, Bell said, as a matter of provincial pride.
He had spoken to all the Hurricanes crossovers, and expected them to lead by example.
The star-studded Hurricanes’ camp was fraught with problems this season and coach Mark Hammett told All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Andrew Hore they would not be required in 2012.
The team failed to reach the Super play-offs.
Bell said the team culture was different in a franchise, because players were drawn from a wider pool. Being a Wellington side was an advantage in creating a better atmosphere in the Lions camp.
‘‘It’s about the environment you create. If you create a really open environment . . . you’re going to get the best out of everybody,’’ said Bell.
He was confident the Lions squad had a range of emerging players to draw on. The team will be bolstered by the recent lastminute away victory against the Manawatu Turbos.
The result was a real positive for a side that included many young, inexperienced players, Bell said.
Particular names to watch for were rising academy players Reg Goodes and Jeff Allen, and Joe Latta and Christian Lloyd also earned honourable mentions.
The lack of ball in the Turbos game was a worry for Bell, but he was happy the Lions’ defence responded to the challenge. It was the Lions’ first win against the Turbos in the past four attempts.
It is questionable how much of an advantage playing at the stadium will be for the Lions.
The stadium has become a fortress for the Phoenix football team, but Bell said many teams in the ITM Cup had no trouble winning away from home.
Although the Lions were determined to perform in Wellington, the home advantage could be a double-edged sword, he said.
‘‘[There is] a lot more pressure when you’re at home; you’re expected to win.’’
Bell appeared confident the Lions would be strong contenders for this year’s title.
Bell is entering his first full season as coach after taking over from Jamie Joseph last August.
The Lions reached the semifinals in 2010 and lost 51-47 to Canterbury.
Wellington’s first national championship match this season is on July 16, against Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth.
In charge: Coach Andre Bell is directing operations for Wellington this season.