Preview: Hurricanes v Brumbies

Date published: March 6 2014

The Hurricanes return to the Cake Tin after a tough start to the Super Rugby season to face a side they have not beaten in four years.

The Hurricanes return to the Cake Tin after the toughest start to the season of any Super Rugby team to face a side they have not beaten in four years.

Yes, draw has not been kind on the 'Canes. After kicking off their campaign with a tour to South Africa, where they were unlucky to collect only one point, the men from Wellington must now host a Brumbies outfit that has won the last three clashes between these teams.

Despite the heart-breaking loss to the Stormers last week – Conrad Smith looked like he was ready to jump off a bridge at the post-match press conference – the Canes have plenty to feel positive about.

Not many teams are unable to unlock the Stormers defence, and they scored two tries at Newlands having kept the Springboks-laden Sharks honest a week earlier. This is the first of two consecutive fixtures in Wellington – the Cheetahs are next up – so Mark Hammett's team have every reason to believe that better days are on the horizon.

The Brumbies will arrive in Wellington in a far more sombre mood following the news that David Pocock's season has been cut short for a second straight year.

It's a massive blow for the Brumbies, who had already seen a sizable contingent of senior players leave during the offseason.

They don't appear to have a specialist openside replacement for Pocock (Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler and Lachlan McCaffery are all more accustomed to blindside or number eight) and even if they did, it would hard to fill the boots of such a class act.

The Brumbies are already missing big number eight Fotu Auelua, who is out for the first 10 weeks of the season, so their back row stocks are running low. There has been speculation surrounding another Brumbies comeback from George Smith, who has just returned to Australia from a season in Japan, but his management have advised him to take a hard-earned break before heading off to France to start a contract with division-two club Lyon.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham and his stuff will be looking for a more consistent performance from their team this time out after blowing hot and cold last week. They crushed the Force for 25 minutes last week before going off the boil badly and missing out on a bonus point that was there for the taking.

So far this season, the Brumbies have the worst tackling success rate (81percent) in the competition. The Canberra side also concede the most turnovers, in total they have produced 41 errors thus far.

The Brumbies' kicking came must also be accurate as the Hurricanes ability to strike from broken play was highlighted in South Africa.

The hosts have raised a few eyebrows by leaving Ardie Savea on the bench again. With injured loosies Brad Shields and Victor Vito still missing, one would have expected the Hurricanes to use Savea's explosiveness with ball in hand as a prime weapon. Expect him to test that Brumbies tackle rate in the last quarter.

The stats show that the home side have the second best line-out in the competition so far but their scrum is a cause for concern.

Head-to-head, the Hurricanes and Brumbies have met 19 times previously in Super Rugby. The Hurricanes have won eight and the Brumbies 11, including the last three. In matches in Wellington against the Brumbies, the Hurricanes have won four and lost four.

Previous results:
2013: Brumbies 30-23 Hurricanes in Canberra
2012: Hurricanes 25-37 Brumbies in Wellington
2011: Brumbies 17-16 Hurricanes in Canberra

Prediction: Last year the Brumbies won five, drew one and lost three of their regular season matches on the road. They won both their games in New Zealand, beating the Highlanders 30-19 and the Blues 20-13. But we reckon the names missing from the Brumbies roster will leave a big hole. Hurricanes by seven points

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Adam Hill, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Marty Banks.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Leon Power, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lionel Cronje.

Date: Friday, March 7
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 local (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)