The Hurricanes took a home-field win over a depleted Highlanders side 41-15 on Saturday afternoon.
Two of Super Rugby’s best teams go head-to-head in Wellington as reigning champions the Hurricanes clash against 2015 winners the Highlanders. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 5:30pm (AEDT).
Battling an injury crisis, the Highlanders showed great determination and defensive steel to beat the Blues last week.
Although the Blues didn’t help themselves, with uncharacteristic errors, the Highlanders were under the pump for the majority of the contest but still secured a win in difficult circumstances at Eden Park.
The Hurricanes suffered their first loss of the season last week, falling to the Chiefs. After two comfortable victories against meagre opposition, the Canes fell at the first hurdle against a side more or less their equals.
Indeed, the opening two matches for the Hurricanes were little more than training runs, and they best be prepared for a war against a committed Highlanders outfit.
In good news for the Highlanders, All Blacks fullback Ben Smith returns from a spell on the sidelines due to concussion. He, along with Aaron Smith, will need to play well if the Highlanders are to trouble the Hurricanes on the scoreboard.
That could be easier said than done though, given that the Highlanders are missing established players such as Liam Squire, Shane Christie, Ash Dixon, Dan Pryor and James Lentjes and Jason Emery.
The Hurricanes meanwhile are only missing Nehe-Milner Skudder, so expect Jordie Barrett to step in at fullback. Barrett has already pulled on the No.15 jumper once for the Wellington-based side, in their crushing round-one win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
The 20-year-old utility has since come off the bench twice, in the Canes’ demolition of the Rebels and loss to the Chiefs.
The Hurricanes are favourites but the Highlanders showed tremendous character to secure victory against the Blues last week and will turn up ready to compete against a side that has had a soft opening fortnight in the competition – one that could once again come back to bite them, as it did last week against the Chiefs.
Highlanders by 5
Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 5:30pm (AEDT).