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Opinion: Hurricanes spoilt for choice as they look to welcome back superstars for Bulls quarter-final

There's a lot to like about the Hurricanes' chances leading into their quarter-final against the Bulls.

Especially when you consider the All Blacks stock they’ll be injecting back in to the starting fifteen.

Both Barretts, Ngani Laumape, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara – all either coming off rest weeks, sick leave or reduced game time.

Factor in the recent return to health of fellow All Blacks Gareth Evans and captain Dane Coles, and that’s a serious amount of well-rested firepower.

But there's one key member of the backline who’s proven to be pretty irreplaceable when unavailable over the past two seasons. The backline glue that is Matt Proctor.

His season, and possibly career in the black and gold jersey seemed to come to a pre-mature end in Durban, with a suspected torn pectoral muscle.

The immediate plan B - as we've seen on a number of occasions - was to push Jordie Barrett into the midfield.

But it's Peter Umaga-Jensen's rare minutes that may have thrown a spanner in the works.

After a Beauden Barrett stomach bug shifted the backline at the eleventh hour, Umaga-Jensen was thrown into the Ellis Park cauldron, where the 21-year old more than held his own.

He then backed it up with another start against the Blues on Saturday, albeit in a dead-rubber.

But what are the chances he'll hold onto that jersey for a third straight match, especially when it's winner-takes-all, knockout rugby?

The safe bet would be partnering Ngani Laumape with Jordie Barrett. It's a tried and tested combination, and there’s enough cover in the back three with Ben Lam, Wes Goosen (if fully fit), Chase Tiatia, Salesi Rayasi and others.

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The Canes will host the Bulls in Wellington this weekend. Source: 1 NEWS

But as we've seen this year, to get the best out of the younger Barrett, he needs the open space that fullback offers.

A more radical option would be to move Wes Goosen to 13 for the first time this season.

Goosen wore the Hurricanes' 13 jersey a few times last season, and as a prolific midfielder earlier in his career it would be a comfortable enough switch for the South African born back.

But you'd think his career-best form on the wing will see John Plumtree keep him there, if fully fit.

The other option then is to give Umaga-Jensen another run.

His two-try performance against experienced Blues midfielders Sonny-Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu will have impressed the coaches immensely, and there’s no denying the excitement around his future potential.

But an end of season dead-rubber, and a knockout quarter-final are two different beasts.

But one thing to consider…

If Wes Goosen hasn't fully recovered from his hamstring strain, is it worth giving the inexperienced Umaga-Jensen as much game time as you can?

After all, any more injuries and he could well be forced into the side at a later stage in the playoffs.

And while the Bulls are no slouches – would you rather give an inexperienced midfielder a run out at home against Burger Odendaal & Johnny Kotze (and/or potentially a returning Jesse Kriel), or risk being forced to play him against the incumbent All Blacks pairing of Crotty & Goodhue in a potential semi-final clash in Christchurch?

I know which one I'd rather…

In Monday's media session, Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland suggested that tactically playing it safe was the way to navigate knockout footy.

But the midfield could be one area where they seriously consider rolling the dice.

Jordie Barrett beats Chiefs centre Tumua Manu
Jordie Barrett beats Chiefs centre Tumua Manu Source: Photosport