Super Rugby: Hurricanes v Chiefs Preview

Super Rugby 2018: Crusaders v Bulls Preview

Following their last-gasp triumph over the Sharks a week ago, the Hurricanes will now set their sights on putting an end to the Chiefs’ five-match winning run when the two lock horns at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday, Shaun Goosen reports.

Hurricanes v Chiefs
13 April 19h35
Westpac Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes 3/10
Draw 25/1
Chiefs 5/2

Hurricanes (-8.5)9/10
Chiefs (+8.5) 9/10

If it was not for a Ngani Laumape's try after the final hooter, Chris Boyd’s Hurricanes would now be reeling from two losses to South African opposition this season. Alas, the Sharks could not do what the Bulls managed in Week 1 and put one over the 2016 champions, who, despite their near blip, remain in a dominant position in the New Zealand Conference standings.

Sitting one point behind the trend-setting Crusaders and one above the Chiefs, the Canes can ill-afford to lose ground on their fellow Kiwi franchises. But, then again, this always has been the case for New Zealand sides. The inherent close-knit nature of their conference means that every one of their derbies is met with absolute ferocity and full attentiveness. Nothing new there.

The late loss of Beauden Barrett was certainly a blow for the Canes last week, but his absence would have had nothing to do with the level of physicality (or lack thereof) his side mustered against the Durbanites. Nobody could have expected them to fare as badly as they did in the collisions and, despite the fact that they did up the ante late on, this area would be a cause for concern for Boyd and his coaching staff.

In some ways, Friday’s derby against the men from Waikato couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The Chiefs have never been a team renowned for their physicality and the hosts would do well to regain some lost confidence in this department, particularly looking ahead to their showdown with the Lions in a fortnight.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have started to pick up some momentum in 2018. Since their opening round loss to the Crusaders, they have beaten the Blues (twice), the Bulls, Sunwolves and Highlanders to put themselves in a great position at this stage of the competition. I, for one, certainly wouldn’t bet against their status as dark horses for this tournament.

On another note, it has been surprising to see just how well Damian McKenzie has performed in his new-found role at flyhalf. The mercurial 22-year-old’s move to first-receiver has proven to be an inspired one, with his scintillating pace and eye for a gap reaping huge dividends for his team and filling them with attacking endeavour.

His coming up against Barrett this weekend is perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the entire round. Barrett is far and away All Black coach Steve Hansen’s number one number 10, but a dominant showing by McKenzie could propel him into the former’s orbit ahead of June’s internationals against the French. Indeed, McKenzie’s performance on Friday will truly decide whether he is a contender or pretender, but he may just have his work cut out for him coming up against reigning two-time World Player of the Year Barrett.

Verdict: Hurricanes (-8.5) 9/10
The Canes will take nothing for granted after last week’s close call and should put in a clinical and composed shift to outplay the men from Waikato. The Chiefs’ chances will rest heavily on the shoulders of McKenzie, but whether he has it in him to take control of the match in the same manner as his opposite number remains to be seen. Hurricanes by 14.

Written by Shaun Goosen for

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