It is now or never for the Hurricanes in terms of making the knockout stages as they face up to the injury-hit Chiefs in Wellington on Friday.
It is now or never for the Hurricanes in terms of making the Super Rugby play-off stages as they face up to an injury-hit Chiefs side in Wellington on Friday.
The champions are missing Richard Kahui, Sam Cane, Andrew Horrell, Tim Nanai-Williams and Gareth Anscombe as their depth is being tested.
However, Hurricanes fans may be quick to argue that being without two top hookers and captain Conrad Smith is more of a blow to their side.
Despite the aforementioned absences, there will be plenty of class on show at Westpac Stadium as some of New Zealand's international new-boys like Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Brad Shields, TJ Perenara and Ben Afeaki look to celebrate their All Black training squad call-ups with strong shifts.
It is fair to state that the latter player's team have been winning ugly in their three recent games. Against the Sharks – from the second quarter – they were exposed, while their showings against the Rebels and Force were some way off the high standard they had set during the early season.
Meanwhile the Hurricanes demonstrated bucket loads of spirit in their recent clash at the Cheetahs, particularly following what happened the previous week. Mark Hammett will now hope that instills further confidence into the likes of Beauden Barrett and Andre Taylor.
The former – and his half-back partner Perenara – need to lead this backline in the absence of Smith and in some respects his absence may be a good thing, with Barrett set to have more of a say in a good leadership spine with his nine, eight Victor Vito and their solid locks.
Dave Rennie's side have their own workhorse in second-row Brodie Retallick however, as his stock, along with powerful inside centre Bundee Aki's, continues to rise. Elsewhere and the absence of Anscombe once again allows fly-half Aaron Cruden to take hold of the kicking tee ahead of an intriguing personal battle with All Blacks team-mate Barrett.
It is all set up to be an entertaining Super Rugby clash and if last year's injury-time drama at the Westpac is anything to go by, another Wellington classic could well be on the cards.
Prediction: The 'Canes' only concern is whether the Chiefs pack will have too much grunt. However, we feel it is a home win as the men from Waikato will fall, just. Hurricanes by 3!
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 James Marshall.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Mike Fitzgerald, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 August Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Save Tokula.
Date: Friday, May 17
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Westpac Stadium
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)