Preview: Hurricanes v Brumbies

Both won last week simply by being more composed than their opponents and taking the chances they were offered.

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Friday February 23, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 12 � Hurricanes 4, Brumbies 8.

LAST TIME: April 22, 2006 (Canberra) � Brumbies 21-16 Hurricanes.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Hurricanes only added Serge Lilo, with a mild knee problem, to their injury toll over the weekend. Although the Brumbies wanted Stirling Mortlock to play, common sense prevailed after a second severe smack in the head in three weeks and he misses this game. Alistair Campbell is also out with a foot injury, so George Smith will lead the side.

FORM: With so many teams playing badly last week, the Hurricanes and, to a lesser extent, the Brumbies were exceptions. The Hurricanes were under pressure for most of the match and their second try looked as if it should have been ruled out for any one of a number of reasons, but they took their chances. The Brumbies defended well against a Reds outfit that won most of the ball but then showed no idea of how to use it. When the chance to nail the game was presented, Laurie Fisher's men didn't miss it.

WHO'S HOT: Paul Tito has been in good form in the Hurricanes engine room and Luke Andrews has been most impressive on the blindside. The front row has been firing and should have the visitors under pressure this week, as scrummaging has not been one of the Brumbies' strengths in 2007. Jimmy Gopperth is playing with more composure than in the opener and Cory Jane is a dangerous attacking weapon. Mark Chisholm is working hard in the Brumbies pack and veterans George Smith, Stephen Larkham and George Gregan are all playing well. Mortlock is they key man and the one around whom so much of the Brumbies play revolves so his absence may seriously weaken the side.

WE THINK: This one is tough to pick � the Brumbies have a reasonable record at Wellington � but we think the home side should get up. The biggest factor for the Brumbies may be their recent inability to score tries; they have not crossed the line since round one. We would have our money on the Hurricanes by a 1-12 margin.


Hurricanes: 1 � John Schwalger, 2 � Mahonri Schwalger, 3 � Neemia Tialata, 4 � Paul Tito, 5 � Bernie Upton, 6 � Luke Andrews, 7 � Nili Latu, 8 � Thomas Waldrom, 9 � Alby Mathewson, 10 � Jimmy Gopperth, 11 � David Smith, 12 � Ma�a Nonu, 13 � Tana Umaga (captain), 14 � Hosea Gear, 15 � Cory Jane.

Reserves: 16 � Tone Kopelani, 17 � Anthony Perenise, 18 � Bradley Mika, 19 � Hayden Hopgood, 20 � Chris Smylie, 21 � Tamati Ellison, 22 � Shannon Paku.

Brumbies: 1 � Nic Henderson, 2 � Jeremy Paul, 3 � Guy Shepherdson, 4 � Adam Wallace-Harrison, 5 � Mark Chisholm, 6 � Julian Salvi, 7 � George Smith (captain), 8 � Stephen Hoiles, 9 � George Gregan, 10 � Stephen Larkham, 11 � Mark Gerrard, 12 � Gene Fairbanks, 13 � Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 � Clyde Rathbone, 15 � Julian Huxley.

Reserves: 16 � John Ulugia, 17 � Salesi Ma'afu, 18 � Richard Stanford, 19 � Jone Tawake, 20 � Patrick Phibbs, 21 � Matt Carraro, 22 � Tim Wright.

REFEREE: Craig Joubert