SR Preview: Hurricanes v Chiefs
IN THE SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: While all others prepare for the International Test Series, the Hurricanes meet the Chiefs at the Westpac Stadium in the only Super Rugby match in Round 16.
This weekend sees only two New Zealand teams in action as the British and Irish Lions tour takes the centre stage.
With Crusaders topping the New Zealand conference, both teams - Hurricanes and Chiefs- are fighting for the first wildcard qualifier position in Friday's New Zealand derby.
Hurricanes wing Julian Savea will start in his 100th Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in front of his home fans.
Savea returns to the left wing in place of Ben Lam in one of six changes to the team that played the Western Force in Perth.
The team for Friday’s match also features the return of wing Nehe Milner-Skudder and loose forward Ardie Savea to the starting team, as well as an all new front row of Chris Eve, Leni Apisai and Jeffery To’omaga-Allen.
Julian Savea will become the tenth player to reach 100 caps for the Hurricanes after Tana Umaga, Rodney So’oialo, Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, Jeremy Thrush, Ma’a Nonu, Victor Vito, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane.
Otherwise known as The Bus, Savea, 26, made his Hurricanes debut against the Highlanders in Wellington in 2009 and has been a fixture on the wing ever since.
Though it took him 16 matches to score his first Super Rugby try, Savea has been a try-scoring machine during his seven seasons in the Hurricanes.
He has crossed the try line 45 times in 99 matches, the same number of tries he has scored for the All Blacks.
Savea said it had always been a privilege to represent the franshice and it would be a proud moment to bring up his 100th match in front of friends and family at Westpac Stadium.
"This team means a lot to me and I’ve always felt privileged and proud to represent the club. I’m really looking forward to running out against the Chiefs and hopefully we can get the right result,"
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said it was a significant achievement for any player to reach 100 Super Rugby matches.
"To play 100 matches at this level shows a high level of commitment and professionalism and for Julian to do it in the Hurricanes jersey is a great story.
"He’s a local guy who has been in the Wellington and Hurricanes system since he was at Rongotai College and come through the Oriental Rongotai club, so I think a lot of people will be very proud on Friday,"
The other changes for the Chiefs match see Eves and To’omaga-Allen replace Loni Uhila and Ben May respectively as the props with Apisai getting his first start of the season at hooker in place of Ricky Riccitelli.
Riccitelli is bracketed in the reserves with Bay of Plenty’s James O’Reilly, who would make his Super Rugby debut should he take the field.
Ardie Savea comes back in at No.8 with Brad Shields reverting to blindside and Reed Prinsep to the reserves.
After returning from a broken foot in Perth via the bench, Milner-Skudder returns to the starting side on the right wing in place of Cory Jane.
The reserves bench features the return of Matt Proctor, who has been out for seven weeks recovering from concussion.
Proctor made a successful return to the field on Monday with a 20 minute appearance for the Hurricanes Development side against Wanganui.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made three changes to the starting fifteen who defeated the Waratahs 46-31 last Saturday in Hamilton.
There’s one change to the forwards with Michael Allardice replacing the injured Brodie Retallick.
The remaining two changes affect the backline with midfield sensation Charlie Ngatai to start at centre and exciting young utility back Solomon Alaimalo to don jersey 14.
2017: Chiefs won 26-18, Hamilton
2016: Hurricanes won 25-9, Wellington
2016: Chiefs won 28-27, Wellington
2015: Hurricanes won 21-13, New Plymouth
2015: Hurricanes won 22-18, Wellington
2014: Chiefs won 24-16, Hamilton
2014: Hurricanes won 45-8, Wellington
2013: Chiefs won 34-22, Hamilton
Prediction: The Chiefs have won five of their last eight regular season games against the Hurricanes, including each of the last two, never before in Sup er Rugby history have they beaten the Wellington side more than twice on the bounce. Nine of the last 11 New Zealand derbies played on a Friday night have been decided by a margin of nine points or fewer, while the Chiefs have lost just one of their last eight such fixtures (W6, D1). The Hurricanes have won 25 of their last 29 Super Rugby fixtures, including each of their last three, though two of their four losses in that span havecome against the Chiefs (one each vs. Crusaders, Sharks). The Chiefs have lost just one of their last six games played away from home(W4, D1), outscoring their opposition in the second stanza of each of their last three road fixtures. The Hurricanes have scored 83 tries so far this season, surpassing the previous competition record of 81 tries scored by the Lions in 2016. Their 26 tries conceded are also the second fewest of any team in the competition this season behind the Lions (25). The Wellington side have scored 64 tries on or before the third phase of possession this season, 17 more than any other team in the competition. The Hurricanes have scored 20 tries after forcing a turnover this campaign, the most of any team in the competition and 16 more than the Chiefs via the
same method. The Chiefs have conceded only 11 first-half tries so far this season, fewer than any other team in the competition. Chiefs have one the previous meeting between the two sides, and will head to Wellington with confidence and eager to bag the points however home ground advatgae does favour the Hurricanes, a difficult one to call but the Hurricanes should win it by five points.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli/James O’Reilly, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Wes Goosen
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie. 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden ,9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane , 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Tom Sanders, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Date: Friday, June 9
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Richard Kelly (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)