VENUE & TIME: Carisbrook, Dunedin, Sunday April 16, 14:00 NZT
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 10 - Highlanders 5, Hurricanes 5.
LAST TIME: April 22, 2005 (Wellington) - Hurricanes 26-16 Highlanders.
WALKING WOUNDED: Second five-eighths Tana Umaga is over his injury woes and returns to the team this week. James Ryan's need for shoulder surgery has been confirmed for the Highlanders.
FORM: Having had a week off, the Hurricanes
have had time to ponder their bruising encounter with the Crusaders in their last match. Before that they were on one of the most consistent streaks in their history. Building back to that level will be the aim as they head into the last weeks of the competition.
Despite some wins in the most recent rounds of the competition, the Highlanders have been unconvincing. They just held out the Western Force last week.
WHO'S HOT: The Hurricanes loose trio of Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo has been highly efficient while lock Jason Eaton should relish a Highlanders lineout without Ryan involved. Fullback Isaia Toeava is showing more confidence the further the competition goes. Josh Blackie remains one of the key Highlanders on the flank of the scrum where he works so well with No.8 Craig Newby. Hooker Anton Oliver and tighthead prop Carl Hayman are always among the most consistent.
WE THINK: Although the two teams have had some classic matches through the years, the odds are definitely with the Hurricanes this time. They have a complete look to them compared to the Highlanders who have been hit heavily by injuries. The pace and combination of the visiting backs should determine the outcome in favour of the Hurricanes.
Highlanders: 1 - Clarke Dermody, 2 - Anton Oliver (captain), 3 - Carl Hayman, 4 - Tom Donnelly, 5 - Filipo Levi, 6 - Hale T-Pole, 7 - Josh Blackie, 8 - Craig Newby, 9 - Jimmy Cowan, 10 - Callum Bruce, 11 - Vilimoni Delasau, 12 - Seilala Mapusua, 13 - Neil Brew, 14 - Ben Smith, 15 - Ben Blair.
Reserves: 16 - Jason Macdonald, 17 - Chris King, 18 - Kane Thompson, 19 - Tim Boys, 20 - Chris Smylie, 21 - Ryan Bambry, 22 - Roy Kinikinilau.
Hurricanes: 1 - John Schwalger, 2 - Andrew Hore, 3 - Neemia Tialata, 4 - Paul Tito, 5 - Jason Eaton, 6 - Jerry Collins, 7 - Chris Masoe, 8 - Rodney So'oialo (Captain), 9 - Piri Weepu, 10 - Jimmy Gopperth, 11 - Shannon Paku, 12 - Tana Umaga, 13 - Ma'a Nonu, 14 - Lome Fa'atau, 15 - Isaia Toeava.
Reserves: 16 - Luke Mahoney, 17 - Joe McDonnell, 18 - Luke Andrews, 19 - Thomas Waldrom, 20 - Brendan Haami, 21 - David Holwell, 22 - Tamati Ellison.