The Hurricanes will be keen to return to the victory trail when they take on tournament strugglers the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday.
After coming off second best in their New Zealand derby against the high-riding Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend, the Hurricanes know nothing less than a convincing win this weekend will satisfy their fanatical supporters.
The Hurricanes came off second best in most facets of play against the seven-time champions and this has led to their head coach, Chris Boyd, tweaking his run-on side for their clash with the Cheetahs.
Boyd said the changes were not an indication of taking the Cheetahs lightly.
“The Cheetahs are a particularly dangerous team that can score tries from anywhere and also have a big forward pack up front,” he said.
“We know they will bring a lot to the match.”
In fact, the Cheetahs have averaged 31 points in their past three matches against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Blues. It was only five years ago that the Cheetahs rocked the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium with a 47-38 win that effectively cost the home team’s chances of making the 2012 play-offs.
This year, these two sides have had contrasting fortunes with the Hurricanes winning eight out of 10 matches so far while the Cheetahs have won just twice from 11 fixtures.
The Bloemfontein-based side conceded a half century of points against the Blues in Auckland last weekend. That result, coupled with their poor history in this fixture, makes Franco Smith’s charges huge underdogs for this fixture.
The Hurricanes have won six of the last eight clashes between these teams, including each of the last two. The last four iterations of this fixture have seen an average aggregate points tally of 86 points; despite this, all but one of those four games have been decided by a margin of nine points or fewer.
The Hurricanes have won their last 11 games played on home turf, a streak more than twice as long as any other they’ve managed in Super Rugby; they’ve scored an average of 39 points per game across those 11 victories.
The last time the teams met: The Hurricanes claimed a 60-27 victory over the Cheetahs in Wellington in 2014. The home side were in a rampant mood and outscored their visitors by nine tries to three. Beauden Barrett led the way with two tries for the Hurricanes and their other five-pointers were scored by Dane Coles, Chris Smylie, Tom Marshall, Jeremy Thrush, Matt Proctor, Conrad Smith and Alapati Leiua. For the Cheetahs, Willie le Roux, Philip van der Walt and Francois Uys crossed the whitewash.
Team news: Beauden Barrett will start at full-back and Otere Black at fly-half in a reshuffled Hurricanes team. Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd has made four changes to the team that started against the Crusaders with lock Sam Lousi set to make his starting debut in the second row. Black will make his second start of the season in the number 10 jersey, Wes Goosen replaces Cory Jane on the right wing, and Ben May returns at loosehead prop for Chris Eves, who will miss the match due to injury. Barrett’s move back to full-back allows younger brother Jordie to have a well-earned rest on the bench. Lousi wil partner fellow Tongan Vaea Fifita in the second row with Mark Abbott taking a break on the bench after starting the past eight matches.
Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has made seven changes to his starting line-up. In the back-line, there are two changes to the run-on side which lost to the Blues in Auckland last weekend. Clinton Swart comes in at inside centre to replace the injured William Small-Smith while Shaun Venter comes in for Tian Meyer at scrum-half. In the forwards, Uzair Cassiem is preferred to Niel Jordaan on the openside flank and Armandt Koster takes over from Francois Uys in the second row. Smith has also picked a brand new front row with Ox Nché, Johan Coetze and Elandré Huggett replacing Charles Marais, Tom Botha and Torsten van Jaarsveld as the starting props and hooker respectively.
Form: Last weekend’s loss to the Crusaders was only the Hurricanes’ second defeat of the season. Their only other loss was against the Chiefs in Round 3 with their eight victories registered against the Sunwolves, Rebels, Highlanders, Reds, Waratahs, Blues, Brumbies and Stormers.
By contrast, the Cheetahs are on a terrible eight-match losing streak. The men from Bloemfontein’s two victories came against the Bulls and Sunwolves in rounds 2 and 3 after they lost their opener to the Lions. Their other defeats were against the Jaguares, Sharks, Stormers, Chiefs, Bulls, Crusaders, Highlanders and Blues.
2014: Hurricanes won 60-27 in Wellington
2013: Hurricanes won 39-34 in Bloemfontein
2012: Cheetahs won 47-38 in Wellington
2011: Hurricanes won 50-47 in Bloemfontein
2010: Cheetahs won 28-12 in Bloemfontein
2009: Hurricanes won 29-12 in New Plymouth
2008: Hurricanes won 38-10 in Bloemfontein
2007: Hurricanes won 37-15 in Wellington
Hurricanes: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Otere Black, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Mike Kainga, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jordie Barrett, 23 Ben Lam
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 Ox Nché
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ruan van Rensburg
Date: Saturday, May 20
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Ben Skeen