PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Highlanders
Thursday, March 22, 2018 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Match details: Hurricanes v Highlanders, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, March 24, 7.35pm
Won: Hurricanes 16, Highlanders 13
Last time: Hurricanes 41-15 Highlanders, March 18, 2017, Wellington
The Hurricanes have made only one change to the side that beat the Crusaders before last weekend's bye. Murray Douglas will start at lock after Vaea Fifita was unavailable due to a minor shoulder injury. Two changes have been made on the bench. Prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen is back from injury while Reed Prinsep replaces Blade Thomson. The Highlanders will start blindside flanker Elliot Dixon after Liam Squire was injured with Marino Mikaele-Tu'u named on the bench. Tighthead prop Tyrell Lomax will start while in the backline Josh Ioane has been named as first five-eighths substitute. The Hurricanes' only loss in their three games was to the Bulls in Pretoria (19-21). They beat the Jaguares (34-9) and the Crusaders (29-19). The Highlanders beat the Blues (41-34), the Stormers (33-15) and the Crusaders (25-17).
TJ Perenara joins 12 other players in becoming Hurricanes centurions on Saturday. Since making his debut as a replacement in 2012 he has managed a high level of continuity and availability in the subsequent years. In his 100 games he will have achieved a phenomenal 94 starts. Along the way he has been paired 82 times with his first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and in the process he has scored more tries than any other halfback in Super Rugby history – 45. He has also captained the side 16 times. The other Hurricanes centurions are: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Rodney So'oialo, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Tana Umaga, Victor Vito and Beauden Barrett.
99 not out! Hit ???? to show your support of @Tj_Perenara ahead of his 100th match for the Hurricanes. #Perenara100 pic.twitter.com/IFKfm7JTn4— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) March 20, 2018DEFENSIVE STRENGTH
While the Highlanders have enjoyed three games at home to start their campaign, one thing that doesn't matter whether it is achieved at home or away, and that is the quality of defence. The Highlanders have been outstanding with some of their defensive achievements this year and it is no surprise that they feature prominently in the tackle statistics. No.8 Luke Whitelock leads the way with 50 tackles while right behind him is lock Tom Franklin with 47 tackles, an impressive number for a lock. They sit in fifth and sixth places respectively across the competition tackle count for all teams.
The Hurricanes have lost only to the Chiefs, once, in their last seven New Zealand derbies at home while the Highlanders have lost their last three away games in New Zealand.
Hurricanes: 1.Chris Eves, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Ben May, 4.Murray Douglas, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Ben Lam, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Julian Savea, 15.Jordie Barrett.
Substitutes: 16.Asafo Aumua, 17.Fraser Armstrong, 18.Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19.Michael Fatialofa, 20.Reed Prinsep, 21.Richard Judd, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Vince Aso.
Highlanders: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Elliot Dixon, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith (captain).
Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon (captain), 17.Aki Seiuli, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Shannon Frizell, 20.Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Josh Ioane, 23.Matt Faddes.
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