Preview: Hurricanes v Brumbies

Date published: June 25 2015

The Hurricanes will have to end a five-year losing streak against the Brumbies on Saturday if they hope to book a place in their first Super Rugby Final since 2006.

What's that? Losing streak? The Hurricanes? Surely not?! 

Yes. Would you believe the 'Canes last win over the Brumbies dates back to 2010…

The ever-contentious Super Rugby fixture system has resulted in Australia's second-best team not facing the tournament table-toppers this year, so it's hard to say if the Hurricanes' poor record against the men from Canberra is really relevant.

What is perhaps of more importance in the hosts' record at home, where they've been outstanding. Since suffering defeat to the Brumbies in their first home game of the 2014 season, the Hurricanes have lost just twice in 15 games at Westpac Stadium. 

After such a dominant season, it's easy to forget that this 'Canes side is in unchartered waters. The franchise's last semi-final appearance came six years ago and there are just four survivors of the team that lost to the Chiefs in 2009, one of five semi-final defeats in the Wellington team's unhappy history in knock-out rugby.

Nevertheless, the 'Canes have without doubt been the best team in the competition this year and considering the fact that the Brumbies have crossed the Indian Ocean twice in the past fortnight, Saturday's hosts must be considered overwhelming favourites. 

Brumbies skipper Stephen Moore wore a look a steely determination when he addressed the press after their win at Newlands last week, insisting that he believed his team could do what not team has done before.

No foreign side has ever won a knock-out fixture in New Zealand and the Brumbies will be all-to-familiar with the perils of backing up a trip to South Africa with another in the opposite direction having lost to the Chiefs in the 2013 Final a week after upsetting the Bulls in Pretoria. 

And the stats don't paint an optimistic picture for Stephen Larkham's side. 

The Hurricanes lead the way for tries scored after the hour mark this season (18), which is not good news for a Brumbies team that will surely be running out of legs in the latter stages after all that travelling.

Some might also point to the scrum as a problem area for the visitors. The Hurricanes boast the best scrum in terms of ball retention (95 percent) this season, while the Brumbies’ figure is the second-worst (82 percent), yet they managed to overcome that hurdle against the Stormers last week in a marked improvement from their set piece horror show of earlier in the year.

The Brumbies will instead look to their excellent lineout, the second best in the competition, to punish the Hurricanes, who have had an average of 2.8 per game pinched off them. 

The ‘Canes have topped the charts for metres gained and line breaks made this season but opponents of the Brumbies gain fewer metres per game than any other side. 

Indeed, the key to the whole puzzle may be the Brumbies' defence, since they are the only side to have conceded fewer points than the Hurricanes this year. 

The last time these teams met: You have to go back to March last year to find the most recent fixture between these two, when the Brumbies were convincing bonus-point winners in Wellington. A late injection of enthusiasm saw the Hurricanes make a bit of a comeback, but they were still outscored four tries to two as the Brumbies won 29-21.  

Players to watch: The two scrum-halves are likely to have a huge influence on the game. TJ Perenara is the tournament's second highest try-scorer this year while opposite number Nic White has assisted 15 tries, at least four more than any other player. 

The class of All Black midfield duo Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith is well documented but with the recent tragic passing of former team-mate Jerry Collins still fresh in the memory and with their time at the 'Canes coming to an end, it could be an emotional night for one of rugby's all-time great combinations. 

Brumbies flankers David Pocock and Scott Fardy did a number on the Stormers at the breakdown last week, and will be hoping to shut down the Hurricanes attack before it gets off the ground with a similar display.

Team news: There is no Cory Jane for the Hurricanes but Beauden Barrett is back from injury at fly-half as one of six changes. James Marshall moves from 10 to full-back, with Nehe Milner-Skudder switching to the wing. Nonu is back from a rest at inside centre, relegating Rey Lee-Lo to the bench. Flanker Ardie Savea and lock James Broadhurst also return to the starting XV.

There is just one change to the Brumbies team as former Australian Sevens player Lausii Taliauli starts on the right wing in the place of suspended Henry Speight.

Form: The Hurricanes have won 14 of their 16 games this season, losing just once on home soil, while picking up a four-try bonus point a whopping nine times. Having qualified directly to the semi-finals, they're coming off a bye weekend but beat the Chiefs 21-13 last time out. The Brumbies beat the Stormers 39-19 least week, their fifth victory on the road this season. However, they have yet to win in New Zealand in 2015.

The Hurricanes have lost five of six Super Rugby Semi-Finals, with four of those defeats coming by margins greater than 10 points. By contrast, the Brumbies have won six of eight appearances at this stage. 

Predictions: The Hurricanes have been near unstoppable this year and the Brumbies will be shattered after all that travelling. Hurricanes by 10 points!

Previous results: 
2014: Brumbies won 29-21 in Wellington
2013: Brumbies won 30-23 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 37-25 in Wellington
2011: Brumbies won 17-16 in Canberra

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Matt Proctor.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Lausii Taliauli, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano,9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Nigel Ah Wong, 23 Robbie Coleman.

Date: Saturday, June 27
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT, 09:35 SAST, 17:35 AEST)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock, Nick Briant
TMO: Ben Skeen