Preview: Hurricanes v Waratahs
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 17, Hurricanes 9, Waratahs 8
WALKING WOUNDED: Hooker Dane Coles sprained the ligaments in his thumb last week against the King and is replaced by Matu Matu'u. Lock Jeremy Thrush left the field with an ankle injury in the same game and Mark Reddish will replace him. Flanker Karl Lowe was unavailable for consideration for the game and his place leaves Ardie Savea to make his Super Rugby debut. Brackets have been placed around Victor Vito (calf), Ash Dixon (shoulder) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (sternum).
The Waratahs are expected to name No.8 Wycliff Palu on their bench for the game leaving Pat McCutcheon to continue his impressive efforts.
FORM: Two wins in their last two outings have been sufficient for a boost to Waratah confidence but the manner of their four-point win over the Force will be a concern, especially when having to head off-shore for the first time. The Hurricanes have also been riding the momentum wave and while falling asleep in the latter stages of their game against the Kings they should have more steel for this weekend's confidence. Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says his side are nowhere near the 'finished product' which will be encouraging for NSW fans given the disappointments the side have provided in the last few years. But there is undoubted quality in the side. League convert Israel Folau has made his presence felt while in Adam Ashley-Cooper they have one of the more capable attacking performers in the game.
The Hurricanes will struggle to maintain lineout pressure without Thrush's services and it is a tough debut for Savea in what should be a genuine scrap in the loose.
WE THINK: The Waratahs will have more of an idea how far they have progressed by the time this game is finished. The Hurricanes are showing they know how to win at home and look to be building at the right time. The more competitive play in the New Zealand conference should also be a bonus and should ensure the Hurricanes emerge on top. We pick the Hurricanes by eight points.