The Hurricanes will be brimming with confidence when they take on the Western Force in Palmerston North on Friday.
Although they were obliterated by the Brumbies in their opening round defeat, the Hurricanes have improved as the season progressed and head into this clash knowing that they have dominated this fixture over the years, winning their last six matches against the men from Perth.
After losing their second match of 2016, to the Highlanders, the ‘Canes beat the Blues last weekend to register their first win of the season.
That victory came at a cost, however, as All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder suffered a season-ending shoulder injury but head coach Chris Boyd had the luxury of replacing his 2015 Rugby World Cup winner with a 2011 one in veteran All Black Cory Jane.
In their last match against the Blues, the Hurricanes’ senior players paved the way to victory with impressive performances. In the forwards, Victor Vito stepped up to the plate with a solid effort and was rewarded with a try for his efforts while the halfbacks, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, pulled the strings with their playmaking skills.
The duo will be keen to build on that effort with another assured display against the Force, especially Perenara who thrived as the team’s captain while first-choice skipper Dane Coles was nursing an injury.
The Force have been competitive in all their previous results but, once again, have little to show for it. Like the Hurricanes, their halfback pairing, Peter Grant and Alby Mathewson, are expected to play an important role if they want to end their winless streak against their opponents but unlike Barrett and Perenara, who have played alongside each other for several seasons, they will line up together for their first competitive match together.
Both these sides have made a slow start to the season and are amongst the also-rans in the attacking statistics. The Hurricanes have only scored five tries from their three matches while the Force have scored one less five-pointer after a similar number of games.
And the Force have made only 18 clean breaks while the Hurricanes – who are usually amongst the frontrunners in this department – have made 16. Both sides are mid table in terms of defenders beaten with Force (57) marginally better than the Hurricanes (52).
2015: Hurricanes won 42–13 in Perth
2013: Hurricanes won 22-16 in Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 46-19 in Perth
2011: Hurricanes won 34-28 in Palmerston North
2010: Hurricanes won 47-22 in Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 28-27 in Perth
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Mark Abbott, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ben May, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Jason Woodward
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Solomoni (Junior Rasolea), 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements: 16 Chris Heiberg, 17 Heath Tessmann, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Sitiveni (Stevie) Mafi, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Albert Nikoro
Date: Friday, March 18
Venue: Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Kane McBride
TMO: Shane McDermott