SUPER RUGBY Preview : Hurricanes vs Highlanders

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tables14bThe Hurricanes will be out for revenge when they host the Highlanders in a repeat of last year’s final in Wellington on Friday.

The Highlanders beat their neigbours in last year’s tournament’s showpiece event of course, but the Hurricanes will have extra motivation as they also lost the corresponding fixture to the champions in Dunedin in Round Two earlier this year.

That match was typical of clashes between these sides, with neither team giving the other an inch, with plenty of drama throughout as the Highlanders eventually claimed a narrow one-point win.

Don’t expect this encounter to be any different. Both sides are chasing a play-off place, and only a point separates them in the standings after 11 matches.

Something’s got to give, and the losing side know the result could have dire consequences later on in the competition.

New Zealand sides have, once again, set the benchmark for enterprising play and although these teams have – unlike last season when they were the pacesetters – lagged behind the Chiefs and Crusaders this year, they are still amongst the tournament’s best attacking teams.

The Hurricanes have made the third most clean breaks (140) while the Highlanders are seventh (117). The men from Wellington are also the side that have gained the most metres (5797) while the champions are, surprisingly, in 11th place with (4614).

The Highlanders, however, have the competition’s best scrum, with a 97 percent success rate, while the Hurricanes are third with an impressive 95 percent effort at the set-piece.

The last time these teams met: The Highlanders claimed a narrow 17-16 victory when these sides met in Dunedin in Round Two. The Highlanders dominated the early exchanges and were on course for victory but the Hurricanes showed great tenacity to fight back in the second half. Malakai Fekitoa scored the Highlanders’ only try in the first half and Lima Sopoaga slotted two penalties. Beauden Barrett also kicked two penalties for the visitors which meant the Hurricanes led 11-6 at half-time. Barrett added another three-pointer from the kicking tee in the second half and also converted a TJ Perenara try. However, further penalties from Sopoaga and Hayden Parker was enough to secure the Highlanders’ win.

Previous results: 

2016: Highlanders won 17-16 in Dunedin
2015: Highlanders won 21-14 in Wellington
2015: Hurricanes won 56-20 in Napier
2015: Hurricanes won 20-13 in Dunedin
2014: Highlanders won 18-16 in Wellington
2014: Highlanders won 35-31 in Dunedin
2013: Highlanders won 49-44 in Wellington
2013: Hurricanes won 23-19 in Dunedin

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reggie Goodes
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, Jamison 21 Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Teihorangi Walden

Date: Friday, May 27
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Jamie Nutbrown
TMO: Aaron Peterson


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