Mouth-watering matchups all over the park will complement this tantalising derby match between the Hurricanes and Highlanders.
Jordie Barrett vs Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett vs Lima Sopoaga, TJ Perenara vs Aaron Smith – it rarely gets much better than this.
After putting away the Crusaders two weeks ago, the rested Hurricanes will flow into this match with plenty of confidence. Motivation won’t be an issue either with live-wire halfback TJ Perenara set to bring up his 100th match for the club.
Rush defence has been a hallmark of Hurricanes rugby throughout Chris Boyd’s reign and along with the guidance of John Plumtree; they have developed a stern defensive structure. The Highlanders will provide a healthy test of those systems and it will fall on the shoulders of leaders like Brad Shields, Ardie Savea and Matt Proctor to set those high standards from the outset.
On a roll
The undefeated Highlanders storm into New Zealand’s capital for their first away match of the season. They will be looking to run the Hurricanes off the park with a polished game plan. A plan that hinges on quick ball and being able to utilize their threats on the edges. The prediction of stormy weather might hinder this approach and a telling component will be the ability of Aaron Smith & Lima Sopoaga adjusting to the elements. Given their experience, it should come naturally, but it is no given.
The loss of Liam Squire is countered by the enthusiastic Elliot Dixon. Hurricanes fans might cringe at seeing Dixon’s name on that team sheet as it was him that broke their hearts in the 2015 final. A bulldozing through a wall of yellow just before halftime swayed the momentum of that match and ultimately turned the outcome on its head. Patriotic Highlanders fans will be wanting more of the same this Saturday.
Player to watch: Matt Proctor
Unheralded Wellingtonian Matt Proctor is considered the glue in this Hurricanes backline. He is the steady hand when those around him pull out the tricks. His organisation on defence is comparable with legendary centre Conrad Smith who more often than not had the competence to predict what the opposition were going to do next. A combination of head smarts and speed make Proctor a difficult player to face and his partnership with Ngani Laumape has the Hurricanes humming. Both players will again be at centre stage on Saturday night.
The Highlanders are on a roll and it will take a big effort from the Hurricanes to get the job done here. Fortunately for the men from the Capital, there is a little thing called home advantage and they have had a decent record of late. A combination of showers and wind will also help their cause. Hurricanes by 5.
Author: Simon van Ryn
I am a sports mad fanatic who loves watching drama filled code. Growing up in Wellington I have been fortunate enough to witness some great sporting moments at the Cake Tin – non more satisfying than seeing my beloved Hurricanes finally lift that trophy after 21 years of hurt.