Rugby: Hurricanes anticipate return of All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara as Super Rugby Pacific 2024 ticks closer

After spending all of 2023 on the sidelines, TJ Perenara's return can't come soon enough for a Hurricanes side bereft of leadership in 2024.  

Perenara, 31, didn't lace up his boots for the Hurricanes at all this year after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon at the end of 2022.  

But despite the lure of heading overseas for a payday in either Japan or Europe, Perenara has re-committed to New Zealand Rugby and will remain in Aotearoa until the end of 2026.  

For the Hurricanes, his return is a much-needed boost for new coach Clark Laidlaw.

TJ Perenara.
TJ Perenara. Photo credit: Getty Images

Next year, the Wellington side have lost two of their most important players.  

Captain Ardie Savea - the best player in the world - will enjoy a season-long sabbatical in Japan.   

Meanwhile, Dane Coles, who captained the Hurricanes to their only Super Rugby title back in 2016, has called time on his career in New Zealand and will enjoy a short stint in Japan before retiring altogether.  

For Laidlaw, that makes Perenara's place in his 2024 plans all the more important.  

And, after so long out of the game, the incoming coach outlines Perenara is leaving no stone unturned to make sure he's ready for the start of next season.  

"He's tracking really well," said Laidlaw. "The comparison between this time and last time is stark.  

"You can see the improvements he's made, the strength and the size of the leg is way ahead of where it was the last time we thought he'd be back playing.  

"Anyone who knows TJ can see the competitive juices coming out of him. He's pretty excited around him and Cam [Roigard] going head to head, alongside Juddy [Richard Judd] each day.  

"We're hopeful he's going to be ready."

Cam Roigard.
Cam Roigard. Photo credit: Getty Images

However, Perenara won't have things all his way if he's expecting to walk straight back into Hurricanes colours.  

During his year-long absence, 22-year-old Roigard has gone from strength to strength.  

A breakthrough season for the Hurricanes led to a maiden All Blacks call-up, seeing Roigard head to this year's World Cup in France.  

And while Roigard ultimately fell behind Aaron Smith and Finlay Christie in the pecking order for the No.9 spot, next season will see all of New Zealand's halfbacks compete to impress new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson.  

Perenara will also contend that race, with the All Blacks unlikely to turn their backs on a player with more than 80 test caps given Smith's departure.  

For Laidlaw, though, the presence of both Perenara and Roigard in his side's ranks will be a boost for the Hurricanes, with both players now facing a battle to become the number one No.9. 

"It's always a luxury to have competition for places," Laidlaw continued. "To win big games and competitions, you need good 9s, good 10s and good decision-makers.  

"To have two All Blacks in the same position is a massive plus.  

"TJ is competitive, so is Cam. He's not going to be resting on his laurels, he's got big goals for his future and what the next four years look like for him."