Rumour has it, when Clark Laidlaw took over the Hurricanes coaching reins last year, he laid two jerseys on the ground for Ruben Love to choose from - the No.10 and No.15. 

Through his early years in Super Rugby, Love had shown glimpses of ability at both first-five and fullback, but maybe it was time to choose a position to make his own. 

"There was No.8 jersey there as well," he chuckles. "I bet he left that part out.

"I remember that convo and, at that point, I had missed two years of rugby and I didn't think I was in a position to pick up one jersey - it could have been a 22 or 23 jersey, because I hadn't played.

"I remember that convo with Clark and it's stayed the same over the past six months - it's just being able to do both and, if there are situations in the game where I need to go to 10, I feel I can definitely do that.

"That conversation went well, and I just wanted to get on the field and actually grab a jersey, because for the last two years, I hadn't even had one."

Injury has played a huge part in Love's stalled progress - he played only 13 games in his first three seasons, including only seven minutes of last season, and has had to bear the brunt of jibes over his frequent absences.

"I handed out flags to kids for two years and they were always asking when I was coming back," he lamented. "I got asked a few times was I retired.

"I never taken any game for granted playing for the Hurricanes, but especially a semi-final."

Love, 23, missed last week's quarter-final against Melbourne Rebels, a last-minute withdrawal and replaced by Harry Godfrey.

"The last few weeks, playing a lot of minutes, I was carrying a few niggles and thought it was best to rest that up to just make sure I was 100 percent for this game."

"I remember going for MRIs and people in the waitingroom asking if I had retired, so I don't take that lightly. I've kept those receipts in the back of my mind and this year, I just wanted to come out and show what I can do.

"To my teammates too, I feel like I've let them down over the last two years, not being able to help or contribute on the field."

His relationship with Laidlaw and his coaching staff has freed Love to play his own style. 

"I feel, when I first came into the Hurricanes, I got cluttered with too much information," he admitted. "I was trying to be a player I wasn't, but the last eight months, I've figured out where I stand and what I want to achieve, and the player I want to be known as.

"I've been able to go out there and do that, but without the support of the coaches I wouldn't be able to do that."

Last time the Hurricanes made the Super Rugby semis was 2016, when they beat the Chiefs and went on to claim the only title of their history. Love wasn't at that game.

"I wish I was," he admitted. "I would have been probably 15 years old... I would have been doing my homework or something, but I was happy watching from home and watching CJ [assistant coach Corey Jane] carve it up."

The ongoing rivalry with the Chiefs had produced two cracking games already this season, with the Hurricanes emerging triumphant from both.

"The first 20 minutes are always so physical," reflected Love. "Us and them probably play the two most similar styles of rugby in the comp - the way they use their backs is similar to how we do.

"At the start of the season, I picked this was going to be the final, to be honest. It's going to be tough in that first 20 minutes and the team that make the least mistakes will walk away with the win."  

Another eyecatching performance from Love may see him given the choice of another black-coloured No.15 jersey sometime this year.

Join Newshub at 4:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Hurricanes v Chiefs Super Rugby Pacific semi-final

2024-06-14T00:49:22Z dg43tfdfdgfd