Super Rugby Match Preview
Friday 13th July
Chiefs vs Hurricanes
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19h35 local time, 07h35 GMT, 09h35 SA Time
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Richard Kelly, James Doleman
TMO: Ben Skeen
Over in Brisbane two of the bottom-feeders of Super Rugby’s pond will slug it out in their final Super Rugby fixture of the year. A game that you could easily miss if you have something else to do, as there is absolutely nothing for either team to play for.
In Hamilton a game with a totally different flavour is on offer.
Both teams are already through to the quarterfinals, that much we know.
At stake in this final regular season derby is the right to host a quarterfinal.
The Chiefs, in 5th place on the log, trail the Hurricanes by exactly five points.
The Hurricanes really need to win, or get a losing bonus point to guarantee a home quarter-final next week. If the Chiefs win with a bonus point and the quarterfinal hosting right come down to a count-out in terms of the SANZAAR rules, the teams will be dead even in almost every respect – except that the Hurricanes have a superior points difference, 135 to 91, and have scored more tries with 62 to 56. For the count-out to swing in the Chiefs favour, they will need to score seven tries or more, and stop the ‘Canes from scoring any… Which is highly unlikely.
The two teams are amongst the leading attacking teams in the tournament,
With the Chiefs having made the second most clean breaks (222) with the Hurricanes fourth (186) in that department. The Chiefs have beaten the fourth most defenders (379) with the ‘Canes next best with 350 in that category.
Whilst it is unlikely that a Chiefs win will be big enough to give them the home quarterfinal, one can but guess that they will give it a go. That is the way the Chiefs play their rugby!
Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper has made several alterations to his starting line-up for this fixture.
In the forwards, Sam Prattley gets his first start after effective performances off the replacements bench for most of the season. Brodie Retallick comes back into the number four jersey after six weeks on the injured list, and Lachlan Boshier gets a start on the blindside flank after returning via the bench last week.
Rounding out the impactful loose trio are Mitch Karpik and Jesse Parete.
In the back-line, Marty McKenzie comes into the number ten jersey, with Cooper confident in his ability to drive the game. McKenzie takes over from his younger brother Damian and will form a half-back partnership with Brad Weber.
The only other change to the run-on side which faced the Brumbies last weekend sees Anton Lienert-Brown returning at outside centre in place of Sean Wainui.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have made minimal tweaks to their starting XV. Overall, head coach Chris Boyd has made just three changes to the team which faced the Blues in the last round.
Prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen is promoted from the bench along with lock Michael Fatialofa in changes to the pack while the competition’s leading try scorer Ben Lam also returns.
Lam is the only change to a backline which produced six tries against the Blues, including a club record equaling four from inside cehtre Ngani Laumape who will again form a midfield combination with Wes Goosen.
Boyd has also made a few tweaks to the bench where Chris Eves, Reed Prinsep and Finlay Christie all return after a week away.
It is an indicator of their thinking that the Chiefs have chosen to rest a whole host of their star players for this encounter. They are taking no risks with key players in this final match of the Super Rugby regular season. Whilst a home quarterfinal would be great, they would rather have a full strength and well rested outfit next week, when the real work has to be done. And next week’s job-card already says it is against these self-same Hurricanes, in Wellington.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are bringing their stars to Hamilton as they are desperate to secure that home quarter-final.
The Chiefs’ decision to rest some key players comes as no real surprise, they will have looked at the job at hand and realised that scoring at least 7 tries against the ‘Canes is a monumental task, and unlikely to happen. Whilst they would happily throw everything at the Hurricanes in any other game, this week they are keeping most of the heavy artillery back for the real battles in the knock-out stages of the tournament.
The Chiefs have won 10 and lost five of their 15 matches in 2018, and have been in great form since returning to action after the June Test break, beating the Highlanders and Brumbies on successive weekends.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have won 11 out of 15 matches and lost four times this year. Last weekend, they claimed an impressive 42-24 victory over the Blues in Wellington which ended a three-match losing streak following a defeat against the Brumbies and losses to the Highlanders and Crusaders before the June international break.
The Chiefs have rested most of their first-choice players, although their team is still loaded with exciting rugby players, as well as the returning Brodie Retallick to add even more muscle in the tight stuff. They will go out to have fun, throw the ball around and pick at the Hurricanes fraying edges.
The ‘Canes are working to rediscover their adventurous wide game which has been missing in the last couple of weeks. Their training ground moves are as slick as ever, but they seem to be missing the sparkle.
While the Chiefs are about the fun, the Hurricanes have a serious job to do, that serious focus means the Hurricanes should be victorious.
Hurricanes to win by 7 points.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Jesse Parete, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Tiaan Falcon, 23 Johnny Faauli
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Wes Goosen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Sam Henwood, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Julian Savea