We preview the first of this weekend's Super rugby games, which sees the Hurricanes and Brumbies go head-to-head at Maclean Park.
The Hurricanes’ last-gasp score against the Blues at Eden Park last week kept their impressive run of victories intact. The Wellington men have now won their last five since succumbing to the Chiefs in Round 3, and currently, sit in third place on the NZ Conference. This Friday, they will play host to the best of the rather mediocre Aussie sides, the Brumbies, who suffered a shock 19-17 defeat to the lacklustre Rebels last week (for whom their AAMI Park win was their first of 2017). The Brumbies have produced a mixed bag this season, losing four of their seven games so far, but a win at the Westpac this weekend could potentially set them on course for a strong finish.
Hurricanes v Brumbies | Friday 21 April | Mclean Park | 09h35
To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes 1/20 | Draw 30/1 | Brumbies 11/2
Hurricanes (-18.5) 9/10 | Brumbies (+18.5) 9/10
2017 has been a tough year for rugby journalists. Each week, we are expected to conjure up a different superlative in a vain attempt at describing just how good New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides are and, each week, the list of them becomes increasingly shorter. However, for the sake of my job, I will try again this week – forgive me if my writing begins to sound a tad familiar!
The Hurricanes were outstanding in their come-from-behind win in Auckland last week. They came up against a very hungry Blues outfit, playing at home, and still managed to grind out a victory. The importance of that win cannot be understated, as it keeps the ‘Canes in touch of the Crusaders and Chiefs, and just out of reach of the chasing Highlanders. Chris Boyd would have been very impressed with his side’s performance, and they will go into this one full of confidence.
The rugby-genius that is Beauden Barrett continues to defy belief at first-five. His chip-and-regather was what enabled his side to get on the front-foot, and for Mark Abbott to eventually score the match-winner against the Blues a few phases later. This man is by far the best player in the world, and the British & Irish Lions (never mind the Brumbies) will have every reason to fear the heir to the Dan Carter-throne.
Unlike his opposite number this weekend, Stephen Larkham would not have been all too pleased with the performance of his charges in Round 8. His boys somehow managed to lose to the only franchise in the competition that hadn’t picked up a win yet; ending their ten-game winning run against Aussie franchises to boot. Their collapsed scrum in the 78th-minute, on their own ball, enabled Reece Hodge to slot over the resulting penalty from in front to claim an unlikely win.
Despite the fact that they sit second in the Australasian Conference, the wise-old-head of Larkham will realise just how deceiving looks can be in this ridiculous Super Rugby format. The Brumbies have just 17 points from their seven games so far, compared to the third-placed Chiefs (29) and the fourth-placed ‘Canes (28). Even the Highlanders in fifth, have one more point than the Canberra men.
The Brumbies, not unlike the rest of the Australian challenge, have been seriously underwhelming this season, and it would be a stretch to suggest they can earn a win at the Cake-Tin this weekend. Stranger things have happened however, and that Rebels-loss may just drive them on to some lofty heights this Friday.
Verdict: Hurricanes (-18.5) 9/10
Too strong, too complete, too powerful. ‘Canes by 20 plus.