Preview: Hurricanes v Chiefs

Date published: July 13 2012

Victory is non-negotiable for the Hurricanes against the Chiefs if they're to stand any chance of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs.

Victory is non-negotiable for the Hurricanes against the Chiefs in Wellington on Friday if the hosts are to stand any realistic chance of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs.

Should the 'Canes prevail, preferably with a bonus point, they would still need to watch the rest of the last round unfold and rely on other results to secure them a place in the top six.

The home side are one of five teams chasing three play-off spots that have yet to be secured in the final weekend, while their opposition are out to secure top spot and home advantage throughout the finals series.

If the Hurricanes (on 53 points) overcome the Chiefs (62) on Friday and two of either the Crusaders (56), the Bulls (54), the Sharks (54) or the Reds (53) lose, then the Hurricanes are likely to make the play-offs stage.

Defeat for the men in yellow, however, will bring their season to an end.

Should that happen, it's still been a memorable campaign for the 'Canes who were written off before the tournament even started after only notching up five wins last season. Fast forward a year later and Mark Hammett's men will double last season's tally of wins if they come up trumps in the New Zealand capital against the table-topping Chiefs.

The Hurricanes, who have won five of their last six outings, are coming off a bye and will be confident of knocking over the tournament leaders after upsetting the Crusaders in Christchurch two weeks ago.

But the last time the North Island rivals played, it was the Chiefs who walked away with the spoils in a rather comprehensive 33-14 win,

The visitors will also be hurting from their close defeat to the Crusaders last week, when they had their opportunities to win or at least draw the game.

Sonny Bill Williams's decision to have a crack at the line when there were several unmarked players outside him might come back to haunt them as the Chiefs bid to finish on top of the overall ladder, which allows them a chance to work their way into a home final. But defeat or a win without a four-try bonus point could open the door for the Stormers to take top spot.

Plenty on the line for both sides then? You better believe it!

Prediction: The Hurricanes have proven they can produce the goods, but they will need to be at their best to beat the Chiefs who – based on last week's form – have some work to do. Tough one… Hurricanes to win minus a bonus point and Chiefs to pick up crucial losing bonus point.

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane/Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Eaton/Frae Wilson, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reg Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields , 20 Frae Wilson/Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Robbie Robinson, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)