VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday April 29, 19.35 NZT.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 10 - Hurricanes 5, Chiefs 5.
LAST TIME: April 1, 2005 (Wellington) - Hurricanes 28 Chiefs 16
WALKING WOUNDED: The Hurricanes continue to be unhampered by injuries as the race for a semi-finals berth tightens. Earlier in the week star backs Tana Umaga and Lome Fa'atau sat out of contact training, as did crushing loose forward Jerry Collins. However, all three have been named in the starting line-up. Chiefs skipper Jono Gibbes hasn't overcome a rib injury and has been left out. Midfield back Niva Ta'auso also continues to struggle with an ankle injury. However, centre Mark Ranby has recovered from injury along with fellow midfielder Sam Tuitupou. Fullback Mils Muliaina has also been named in the starting line-up after overcoming his groin strain.
FORM: A 21-16 loss away to the Brumbies in round 11 will have rocked the Hurricanes. Starting the 2006 campaign with a hiss and a roar, the Hurricanes have slowed down in recent weeks and will be out to secure maximum points against an unpredictable Chiefs outfit. The Chiefs, however, will have mixed feelings going into this game. They took maximum points from their one-point win over the Cheetahs at Waikato Stadium but coach Ian Foster will be expecting his troops to tighten up on their defence after conceding four tries. A play-off spot looms mathematically and a win here is an absolute must!
WHO'S HOT: Fa'atau continues to be the in-form wing of the competition. Fa'atau was the leading light in last week's disappointing loss and the Hurricanes will look to him to inject some impetus into the attack against a struggling Chiefs defensive line. Chiefs flanker Marty Holah continues to plague opponents. The stand-in skipper has worked hard throughout the season and much of the Chiefs high-scoring can be attributed to the hard-fought ball he has won. Another strong performer as of late is Chiefs lock Sean Hohneck. Last week Hohneck played his best game of the season and was a serious hassle for the Cheetahs forwards at lineout time.
WE THINK: This game has all the hallmarks of another firecracker! Given the high-scoring brand of football the Chiefs have played this season, and the glitzy backline in the Hurricanes camp, plenty of tries should be on the menu. If the Chiefs defence is not tightened then a blowout to the Hurricanes can be expected. However, if this area is rectified the Chiefs may just have what it takes to grind the Hurricanes 2006 campaign to a halt.
Hurricanes: 1 - Joe McDonnell, 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 - David Holwell, 11 - Shannon Paku, 12 - Tana Umaga, 13 - Ma'a Nonu, 14 - Lome Fa'atau, 15 - Isaia Toeava.
Reserves: 16 - Luke Mahoney, 17 - John Schwalger, 18 - Luke Andrews, 19 - Thomas Waldrom, 20 - Brendan Haami, 21- Jimmy Gopperth, 22 - Tamati Ellison.
Chiefs: 1 - Simms Davison, 2 - Tom Willis, 3 - Ben Castle, 4 - Bernie Upton, 5 - Sean Hohneck, 6 - Liam Messam, 7 - Marty Holah (Captain), 8 - Steven Bates, 9 - Byron Kelleher, 10 - Stephen Donald, 11 - Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 - Sam Tuitupou, 13 - Mils Muliaina, 14 - Anthony Tahana, 15 - Sosene Anesi.
Reserves: 16 - Aleki Lutui, 17 - Nathan White, 18 - Kristian Ormsby, 19 - Nili Latu, 20 - Jamie Nutbrown, 21 - David Hill, 22 - Mark Ranby.
Referee: Steve Walsh