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|J. V. Wyk||35|
The fifth week of Super Rugby Aotearoa will wrap up with the unconvincing Hurricanes hosting a Highlanders team coming off two losses. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 1:35pm (AEST).
Both teams have a similar predicament. Third and fourth on the table respectively, they both have a narrow win against the Chiefs, as well as losses to both the Crusaders and Blues, the form teams of the competition.
The Hurricanes have been cruelled by their lineout, and in last week’s win, almost gave the game away in the dying stages with extremely poor discipline. The Highlanders dropped the game to the Blues by just one point, but were outlasted by the Crusaders in a 40-20 loss.
Overall, the Highlanders have probably been more convincing. Yet the Hurricanes, starting to find their feet without Beauden Barrett, are favourites today.
There are some decent match-ups today. Aaron Smith versus TJ Perenara is the battle for the All Blacks’ nine jersey. Looking through the Hurricanes’ line-up, when you get to the backs, the talent starts to shine through. The Highlanders will want to keep it tight, ideally play to their strengths, which is mainly the experienced and solid forward pack.
While the Highlanders haven’t beaten the Canes in Wellington since the 2015 grand final, the hosts have lost their last two at home, so they’re hardly invincible at present.
In team news, there are some major outs for the Hurricanes. Dane Coles is ruled out with a calf niggle, bringing in Asafo Aumua to hooker.
Ben May comes in for the injured Fraser Armstrong, as Reed Prinsep and Gareth Evans both sit out with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. In their places are Devan Flanders and Murphy Taramai.
Jackson Garden-Bachop has been performing at ten, but instead Fletcher Smith comes in.
For the visitors, Josh Dickson has been ruled out for the year with a broken leg. So Pari Pari Parkinson and Jack Whetton run out in the second row.
The Highlanders are a good team, and have performed better than the Canes so far in Super Rugby Aotearoa. I’m surprised they aren’t favourites. The Hurricanes’ decision to sub out Garden-Bachop might cost them.
Highlanders by eight.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 1:35pm (AEST).
Kick-off: 1:35pm (AEST)
Venue: Sky Stadium
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Odds: Hurricanes $1.47, Highlanders $2.70
Ben May, Asafo Aumua, Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Scott Scrafton, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Fletcher Smith, Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso, Kobus Van Wyk, Jordie Barrett.
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Alex Fidow, Vaea Fifita, Murphy Taramai, Jamie Booth, Billy Proctor, Wes Goosen.
Ayden Johnstone, Ash Dixon, Siate Tokolahi, Pari Pari Parkinson, Jack Whetton, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Aaron Smith, Mitch Hunt, Jona Nareki, Patelesio Tomkinson, Rob Thompson, Scott Gregory, Michael Collins.
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Jeff Thwaites, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Jesse Parete, Kayne Hammington, Bryn Gatland, Teariki Ben-Nicholas.