The match of the round this week comes out of Wellington where the inform Hurricanes battle the Lions in a repeat of the 2016 final.
The Hurricanes have won 7 on the trot and will be looking to enhance their title credentials with another win at home. The Lions fly into New Zealand’s capital on the back of a shock loss in Queensland and their determination to make amends will no doubt add a bit of fire to this clash.
The Hurricanes will be searching for a more polished performance this weekend after struggling to put away the plucky Sunwolves last Friday. Albeit a few dodgy TMO calls prevented them from getting any real ascendancy.
The big question for the Canes surrounding player selection this week is – who are they going to start in the outsides? Ben Lam has been spectacular and leads the try-scoring stakes, Vince Aso has found a second gear, Nehe Milner Skudder has just made his comeback, Julian Savea looks like the “Bus” of old, while Jordie Barrett is the glue that allows all that firepower to tick.
Starting Lam, Skudder and Barrett gives the Hurricanes a varied dimension of attack and injecting Aso late in the match allows them to finish with a flurry. Julian Savea misses out here due to his inability to cover more than one position.
Ready To Pounce
The Lions haven’t quite hit their stride this year and have all but given up their opportunity to grab the No. 1 billing through the playoffs. The men from Johannesburg will need to hit tip-top form if they are going to conquer the Canes at the Cake Tin. Leaders like Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Elton Jantjes and Ruan Combrink will need to express themselves if they are going to get over the line.
Taking the safe route and going for goal won’t get the job done. To beat the Canes on their own turf, the Lions are going to have to out gun and outsmart the Wellingtonians in all facets of the match. They will need to execute every opportunity and also combat the “Yellow and Black” attack from crossing their own chalk excessively. Do all those things and the Lions could nab themselves an upset.
Player to watch: Jordie Barrett
Jordie Barrett has made a spectacular return to footy this year after a shoulder injury prevented him from travelling with the All Blacks on the 2017 end of year tour. He’s a dominant athlete that flourishes in the air and has the ability to run perfect lines on attack. He is a vital cog in the Hurricanes machine because he has that capacity to set up those around him with considerable ease. Expect him to once again create as the Hurricanes head into battle on Saturday night.
Source: Ultimate Tributes – YouTube
Source: All Blacks – YouTube
“Retro Night” in Wellington promises to be a barnstorming affair. The Lions will throw the kitchen sink at the Hurricanes and have the calibre of players to get the job done. They proved last year that if they can get things right then they can beat anyone. The Hurricanes will also fancy their chances of exerting a strong performance on Saturday. They have strong depth in all areas and this will be significant through the closing stages.
Hurricanes by 10.
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.