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Hurricanes can’t take eyes off the ball

Last chance for Chiefs

by Lynn McConnell

Beating the bye will be on the Hurricanes’ minds as much as their need to defeat the Chiefs in their Super Rugby Aotearoa game in Wellington on Saturday.

In one of the quirks of the competition, no team coming off the bye has won and the Hurricanes, if they are to remain alive heading into the last week need to defy that occurrence.

The Hurricanes’ hopes of winning the competition are dependent firstly on gaining a bonus-point win over the Chiefs and then on the Crusaders slipping up against the Highlanders on Sunday.

Coach Jason Holland said that bonus point was a potential trap for the team.

“We want to keep ourselves alive in the competition for as long as we possibly can. Sometimes, if you go out not [focused] to win, you can take away what you have done well in previous weeks. We want to play a good style of footy, we want to play an attacking style of footy and, hopefully, that gets us what we want in that regard.

“We’ve got a pretty good Chiefs team up against us and, we’ve got to win the game first,” he said.

While the Chiefs were winless, Holland said some tough things had gone against them all season. There had been some crucial moments they hadn’t managed to win, and the Hurricanes knew how much of a problem that could be from their first two games when they hadn’t nailed moments.

“In the last two or three weeks we have and all it takes is to get two or three things right and she’s a different game. We know the Chiefs coming down here for their last game it is going to be some battle,” he said.

Holland said while the competition may be in its final stages, selection of sides each week still offered some challenges.

However, there was no place for former All Blacks wing Julian Savea. He had done a great job during the week, but others had been working for longer and deserved the opportunity for selection first.

Savea would play club rugby on Saturday.

On the bench, Kane Le’aupepe and Jonah Lowe were back having recovered from injuries that had frustrated their abilities to contribute to the campaign.

“We’ve got big hopes for Jonesy [Lowe] in the future. He does a lot of simple things well and is a good finisher. It’s tough to get an opportunity in this backline at the moment, so you have to be on the ball and make sure you are ready to take it.

Chiefs coach Warren Gatland has taken the chance to bring new players into his 23 for the game while also being able to call on All Blacks blindside flanker Luke Jacobson after his recovery from a broken hand.

Waikato prop Robb Cobb and Taranaki back Kini Naholo are set to make their Super Rugby debuts if called from the bench.

“This weekend is an opportunity to grow and develop some of our young players. We have two debutants sitting on the bench who have been training hard, and it is a good chance for them to get a taste of Super Rugby,” Gatland said.

“There is still a lot to play for in our eyes. The team have a lot of pride in the jersey. As always, they will be leaving it all on the field,” he said.

The teams are:

Hurricanes: 1.Ben May, 2.Dane Coles (captain), 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.James Blackwell, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Reed Prinsep, 7.Du’Plessis Kirifi, 8.Ardie Savea, 9.TJ Perenara (captain), 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Vince Aso, 13.Peter Umaga-Jensen, 14.Kobus van Wyk, 15.Jordie Barrett.

Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Tevita Mafileo, 18.Pouri Rakete-Stones, 19.Kane Le’aupepe, 20.Devan Flanders, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Billy Proctor, 23.Jonah Lowe.

Chiefs: 1.Ollie Norris, 2.Samisoni Taukei’aho, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 5.Mitchell Brown, 6.Luke Jacobson, 7.Sam Cane (captain), 8.Pita Gus Sowakula, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Kaleb Trask, 11.Sean Wainui, 12.Alex Nankivell, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Shaun Stevenson, 15.Damian McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Bradley Slater, 17.Robb Cobb, 18.Angus Ta’avao, 19.Tupou Vaa’i, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Lisati Milo-Harris, 22.Quinn Tupaea, 23.Kini Naholo.

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© 2020 Lynn McConnell

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