PREVIEW: Chiefs v Hurricanes
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
TALE OF THE TAPE
Both teams come into this clash in hot form. The Chiefs started the season by keeping the Highlanders try-less in a 24-15 win in Dunedin before running the Blues ragged in a convincing 41-26 victory in Hamilton. The Hurricanes have been equally impressive in racking up a combined 154 points in their two bonus-point wins over the Sunwolves and Rebels. Looking at the recent record between the two sides, the Hurricanes have the edge with three wins out of the last four clashes, including a 25-9 victory in last year’s semifinal.
QUICK TAP: HURRICANES READY TO STEP UP A NOTCH AGAINST CHIEFS
MIDFIELD SWITCH UP
The Chiefs have mixed up their midfield with Anton Lienert moving in one spot to second five-eighth and Tim Nanai Williams shifting from wing to centre. After two impressive starts at centre, Johnny Faauli misses out on the 23 with veteran Stephen Donald slotting into a utility role on the bench. The Hurricanes pair of Ngani Laumape and Matt Proctor have been dangerous in the opening two rounds and will need to be watched closely by Lienert-Brown and Nanai-Williams.
The Hurricanes have made just two changes to the team that dismantled the Rebels 71-6 in Wellington last week. Both changes come in the tight five where Loni Uhila replaces Chris Eves at loosehead prop and Mark Abbott comes in for James Blackwell at lock. Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said: “We are under no illusions what the Chiefs will bring to the table. We expect a really tough contest up front and at set piece and they also have plenty of threats in the backs. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Chiefs were impressive across the park against the Blues last week but no one stood taller than Dominic Bird. The towering lock had a cracker of a game. Not only was his set-piece play dominant, but he was active around the park and displayed some silky ball-skills. For the Hurricanes, Nehe Milner-Skudder made the perfect return from injury with three tries. Milner-Skudder will be looking to build on that in what is a crunch match against the Chiefs.
This match is tough to call. Both teams have been ruthless in the opening rounds with the Chiefs prevailing in two local derbies while the Hurricanes have swept aside weaker opposition. Can the Chiefs keep the intensity high for a third straight week? If they can they might just pip the Hurricanes who have not been tested yet in 2017.
The Hurricanes have scored 24 tries in their last two games, more than they had scored in their six games prior (23)
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni, Pulu, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-c), Mitchell Brown, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Hika Elliot, Kane Hames. Reserves: Sebastian Siataga, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Boshier, Jonathan Taumateine, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson.
Hurricanes: Nehe-Milner Skudder, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Mark Abbott, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, Dane Coles (c). Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Ben May, James Blackwell, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Otere Black, Jordie Barrett.
Fresh off his 100th #SuperRugby appearance, Aaron Cruden and @ChiefsRugby will face @hurricanesrugby.
TICKETS: https://t.co/C8jIa1u5dz pic.twitter.com/stgZJzpL0f— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 8, 2017
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