It’s been a week to forget for the Hurricanes as they return to Wellington to take on the Reds in Round 12 of Super Rugby this Saturday.
Last Saturday in Durban their turnovers were punished by a powerful Sharks side in a defeat that was surprising on paper, but entirely convincing on the field.
The Hurricanes were so dominant when they thrashed the Lions at Ellis Park that a similar outcome a week on made sense, only for their attack to never get going against a Sharks defence that has become impressively stubborn.
Still, in the long run of a long season the defeat might prove to be a timely reminder that their attack is not always going to fire on all cylinders and occasionally results will have to be ground out rather than won at a canter.
Two defeats in their last three games would normally be a reason to panic but Chris Boyd’s iron fist with the handling of those players who missed a curfew in Durban last Tuesday has been impressive.
Both Savea brothers, Julian and Ardie, plus Cory Jane, Victor Vito and Chris Eves have all been dropped as a result and the first four are all key figures who come the business end of the season will be relied upon. Boyd has sent a strong message and deserves to be commended. The question will be whether the Hurricanes still have enough in the tank to put away a Reds outfit who are improving, but also hard to predict.
Any concerned supporters about leaving out those stars can take heart from the fact that the Hurricanes have won 11 of the last 13 meetings between these sides, averaging 30 points per game in those 11 victories.
What’s more they have been the most ruthless side in the competition when it comes to scoring tries following winning a turnover this season, with 14.
The Reds’ defence therefore has to be on guard and prepared to scramble – quite a challenge for a team drifting close to the bottom of the table.
Had they been coming into Saturday’s game with a bit more confidence then this might have been an interesting match-up, but their 38-5 loss to the Crusaders felt like a regression.
Nick Stiles and Matt O’Connor continue to patch up a young side with an eye on next season and the loss of Samu Kerevi is still a hammerblow to any hopes of a win in Wellington.
Aspects of the Reds’ game however are impressive. These two teams are the only two in Super Rugby to have success rates above 90 percent at both the scrum and line-out this season.
Finding the right continuity in attack though is an obvious issue. The Reds are the only side yet to score a try involving seven plus phases of build-up play so far. No side has scored more tries of this nature than the ‘Canes (seven).
2015: Hurricanes won 35-19 in Brisbane
2014: Hurricanes won 35-21 in Wellington
2013: Reds won 18-12 in Brisbane
2011: Hurricanes won 28-26 in Wellington
2010: Hurricanes won 44-21 in Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 37-28 in Brisbane
2008: Hurricanes won 23-18 in Wellington
2007: Reds won 25-16 in Brisbane
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (vc), 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ben May, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Willis Halaholo
Reds: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Junior Laloifi
Date: Saturday, May 14
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Angus Mabey, Brett Johnson
TMO: Glenn Newman