Victor Vito, who will lead the Hurricanes in their last pre-season match against the Chiefs in Taupo on Friday, is confident the "new breed" will leave their mark on the Super Rugby competition.
Vito, one of the few All Blacks who stayed in Wellington despite the unpleasant public fall-out between coach Mark Hammett and the senior players, spoke of the "positive change" in the region.
Much was made of the mass exodus of senior players, following the unceremonious axing of veterans Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu by Hammett. They were joined at the exit door by other big names like Hosea Gear and Piri Weepu.
"There's been some huge positive changes," Vito said in the build-up to Friday's outing.
"It opens up doors for younger guys to come through. You've got good players like TJ Perenara and Brad Shields that are all up-and-comers and wherever one door closes another one opens for guys like that.
"These guys are really young and exuberant and look to just really push the older fellas. I'm older now at 24. The guys are coming in at 19 or 20 and they tend to push you so it's exciting times for the `Canes."
The Hurricanes have already suffered their first setback of the campaign with burly flank Karl Lowe ruled out of the pre-season with a knee injury and the 27-year-old could miss the early rounds of the competition proper.
Wellington Lions captain Scott Fuglistaller has joined the squad in the interim to cover Lowe's absence.
Also unavailable for selection this week due to injury are Brad Shields (shoulder), Julian Savea (shoulder) and Mark Reddish (neck).
Following Friday's game against the Chiefs in Taupo, the Hurricanes fly out to South Africa on Saturday.
The season gets underway the following weekend when the Hurricanes meet the Stormers in Cape Town.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Richard Buckman, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Victor Vito (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements - from: Tristan Moran, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Motu Matu'u, Michael Bent, Jason Eaton, Mike Coman, Scott Fuglistaller, Chris Eaton, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jayden Hayward, Tim Bateman.
Date: Friday, February 17
Venue: Owen Delany Park, Taupo
Kick-off: 18.35 (05.35 GMT)
Assistant referees: Garratt/Chris, Grant Stuart
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