Vito: Different feel about Hurricanes
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Hurricanes belief there will not be a repeat of their previous 'chokes', when they lost in Super Rugby finals.
Having lost in both the 2015 (14-21 to the Highlanders) and 2006 (12-19 to the Crusaders) - along with five defeats in semifinals - the Hurricanes feel they have the firepower to finally go all the way.
The whole of New Zealand is abuzz about Vito, who is on track for a dream farewell - when he plays his 100th and final game for the Hurricanes in Saturday's Super Rugby Final.
Vito - who has won two World Cups, a Ranfurly Shield for Wellington and played 99 games as a Hurricane - is hoping to deliver the franchise the parting gift of a maiden Super Rugby title.
"It certainly seems like the script's been written a little bit," Vito told the Dominion Post, when asked about the possibility of celebrating his ton with a win.
The 33-Test All Black heads for France to play for La Rochelle later this month.
"A hundred games is pretty massive for me personally, but for me I'm just more excited about the fact that once again we are giving ourselves shot to win a title as a team."
He wasn't thinking about the possibility of the side losing two finals in two years, after last year's defeat by the Highlanders.
"Last year was last year and this year's team is a completely different team," said Vito.
"That sort of thing probably would have hung around a little bit if we had pretty much the same team.
"But it's quite a different feel this year, it's no better or worse, it's just different.
"I think the culture's been building for the last few years and if anything, the teams before, especially last year's team just instilled that belief."
The departure of All Blacks centre stalwarts Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith and the loss through injury of Nehe Milner-Skudder meant there were some green players.
Vito's fellow loose forward Brad Shields is another member of the quintet who lost to the Highlanders in last year's decider.
"I'm still not over it," Shields said, adding: "Look, we've got another opportunity, another chance to do the club proud and hopefully get that first win."
There are certain obvious advantages.
The Hurricanes have had home ground advantage throughout the play-offs.
No South African side has ever won a Super Rugby play-off match in New Zealand and the Hurricanes have already beaten the Lions 50-17 this season.
The most relevant number, though, is 221, which is the minutes since the Hurricanes conceded a try. That doesn't mean the Lions can't or won't change that on Saturday, but it's an encouraging statistic all the same.
"Everyone knows that defence wins championships," said Vito.
Sources: NZ Newswire and Dominion Post