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Super Rugby 2017: Chiefs v Hurricanes Preview
We preview Friday's headline Super Rugby clash between the Chiefs and Hurricanes.
Far and away the two best sides in the competition at present will be going toe-to-toe on Friday, in a game that has all the ingredients to make for a classic.
Chiefs v Hurricanes | Friday 10 March | Waikato Stadium | 08:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 1/1 | Draw 22/1 | Hurricanes 8/10
HandicapChiefs (+1.5) 9/10 | Hurricanes (-1.5) 9/10
Dave Rennie’s men are two-from-two for the season, after strangling the life out of the Highlanders in Dunedin in Week One, before proceeding to totally outclass the Blues at home last weekend. If anybody still has doubts as to whether this current Waikato outfit has the potential to mimic the classes of 2012 and ’13 and go on to lift the coveted Super Rugby trophy at the season’s end, then they must live in a faraway land where Damian McKenzie fails to spark a counterattack from fullback, Aaron Cruden fluffs his lines from straight in front of goal, and Hika Elliot skips a leg-day.
The Chiefs’ performances thus far have been nothing short of world-class, and although it is still (immeasurably) early on in the season, they already look likely to be in that Grand Final on August 5th (and, hypothetically, their opponents on that day may well be those they face this weekend…).
The manner in which they out-thought the ‘Landers in the first week, and then managed to out-play a spirited, Tana Umaga-coached Blues side the next, are all indications that these Chiefs have learned from several seasons of near-misses, and are ready to properly challenge for the title again.
The fact that Rennie and his team have performed this well without influential All Black flanker Sam Cane - who makes a return to starting line-up this weekend - makes their results all the more impressive, and the Canes must shudder to think what effect his comeback will have on his side. Indeed, a win at home this Friday and the Hamiltonians will already be thinking about taking home that NZ Conference…
If the Chiefs have been playing inspiring rugby thus far, then how about those Hurricanes! The Canes are certainly fueling the fire (with truckloads of the finest Wellington timber) of those calling for a reduction in the number of Super Rugby teams in the competition, after scoring a mind-boggling 154 points in their opening two encounters against the minnows. Having skinned the Sunwolves by 83-17 in Singapore, and then mauling the Melbourne Rebels (described by Greg Growden as the ‘Melbourne Rabble’) by 71-6 at home, these Hurricanes look to be the first Super Rugby defending champions who actually have the capacity to ‘defend’ their title since the Chiefs did it back in 2013.
Chris Boyd will know all about Rennie’s immense tactical mind, however, and that this week’s opposition have the ability to zone-in on a team’s strength and, well, turn it into a weakness. Despite this, I don’t foresee Boyd changing his game-plan for this encounter, and we should expect more moments of magic from Milner-Skudder, the Saveas and the Barretts over the course of the eighty.
The confidence they carry from their first two performances should see them come charging out of the blocks for this one, and you can be certain that the likes of Dane Coles and company will leave nothing left to the imagination in the physical exchanges.
Verdict: Hurricanes 8/10
Toughest call I’ve ever had to make. Ever. If the Chiefs minimise the attacking threat of the 'Canes backs then they should take it, although I see the defending champions dominating the collisions and grinding out a victory. The only guarantee you can get out of this game is that I’ll be skipping Friday morning lectures to watch it! It’s going to be immense.