Super Rugby Pacifc: Hurricanes sweat on Cam Roigard injury scare, as TJ Perenara prepares for long-awaited return

Veteran halfback TJ Perenara will make his long-awaited return to the field in Friday's Super Rugby pre-season showdown with Moana Pasifika in Upper Hutt and it appears his comeback could not have been better timed.

The 80-test international hasn't played since rupturing his achilles during the All Blacks' European tour back in 2022.

Now, 454 days later, Perenara will reclaim his beloved yellow and black No. 9 jersey, as he seeks some valuable match conditioning before the Hurricanes' season opener against the Force in Perth on February 24.

Coach Clark Laidlaw says Perenara - who's the first Hurricanes player to reach 150 caps - has lost none of his spark during his lengthy absence and is eager to re-establish himself.

"[Perenara] is tracking good," said Laidlaw.

"He's had a good couple of weeks and as we all know, he's got a spring in his step.

"He certainly hasn't lost any of his edge. It's been an exciting time for him, with his return from injury and the birth of his second child a couple of weeks ago.  

"We're looking forward to seeing him back out there and we know he will be raring to go when called upon."

TJ Perenara at Hurricanes training earlier this month.
TJ Perenara at Hurricanes training earlier this month. Photo credit: Getty Images

Perenara now faces stiff competition to retain his spot as the starting halfback, given the emergence of teammate and All Blacks breakthrough star Cam Roigard.

However, Roigard won't feature on Friday after "tweaking his bicep" during Thursday's team training. He left for scans immediately after the session finished to undergo tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Laidlaw resisted speculating on the gravity of Roigard's ailment, stating simply the team had their "fingers crossed" it's nothing long-term.

At this stage, it's uncertain whether Roigard will be available for their start of the season proper against the Force.

"We've been so impressed with the way Cam has been going," said Laidlaw.

"I would suggest he's probably in the best condition of his career physically... I thought he was one of the players who actually played really well last week.

"We're obviously hopeful that it's nothing too serious in light of the way he's been training and playing."

Returning flanker and newly named captain Brad Shields will also have to bide his time to make his Hurricanes comeback.  

The former England international's availability for round one is doubtful, as he deals with a flare up of plantar fasciitis.

He hasn't featured in any pre-season contests and is yet to train with the squad, which hasn't gone down well with the 103-cap loosie.

"We've had to baton back a bit around what he's been doing and try to build him back up," said Laidlaw.

"But man, he's frustrated and eager to get back out there. We want him back out there. We want his experience on the training field and on the field  

"It's a slightly niggly injury but we'll keep chipping away."

After their shellacking at the hands of the Highlanders in last weekend's pre-season encounter, Laidlaw says the squad are determined to regain some positive momentum leading into their competition.

"Although we're a little disappointed how we played against the Highlanders, it was great to get everyone here in preseason who was fit and healthy some live rugby.

"It has given us an opportunity to improve some areas we can take into the game against Moana Pasifika.

"So, we're excited to see how we go."