Preview: Hurricanes v Jaguares

Date published: April 8 2016

A tough tour gets no easier for the Jaguares as they travel to Wellington to face last season's finalists the Hurricanes.

Chris Boyd's side return off their bye week both fresh and hungry to close the gap between themselves and the in-form Chiefs and Highlanders at the top of the New Zealand Conference.

Consecutive 40-point wins over the Force and Kings have in some ways masked issues the Hurricanes are facing when it comes to dominating games like we saw them do in 2015, with Beauden Barrett in particular searching for his best form.

They will certainly hope to have back the best version of Julian Savea, after a slow start to the season following New Zealand's World Cup triumph.

By the sounds of it Savea has worked diligently over the last two weeks, after not facing the Kings and then through the bye week. Now's time to see the results.

Boyd will have been pleased though by the gradual emergence of Ngani Laumape, the hard-working centre making clear progress game by game in the Hurricanes' midfield. The Hurricanes are making ground – only the Chiefs have made more metres this season – but the clean breaks and offloads aren't quite there yet.

That could all change on Saturday in an open contest – the Hurricanes have won their last six regular season home matches in Super Rugby, having scored 139 points across their last three such fixtures.

For that reason, it seems unlikely that the Jaguares are the team to cause an upset. Four games now without a win since they overturned the Cheetahs, teams might have clinched a win over the Argentine franchise, but it hasn't come easily.

The Jaguares are yet to lose a fixture by more than eight points and have led at half-time in two of their last four. If they do go down, they go down fighting.

Agustín Creevy, Juan Martín Hernández, Joaquín Tuculet and Santiago Cordero all remain back in Argentina but Nicolás Sánchez makes a welcome return at fly-half, with any points that come off his boot absolutely vital in Wellington.

His half-back partner and captain on Saturday, Martín Landajo, has undoubtedly been the team's major positive in the campaign so far.

Landajo has made eight breaks this season, the most of any scrum-half in the competition, which puts him in an elite position ahead of the likes of Aaron Smith and the Hurricanes' own TJ Perenara. The Hurricanes will have to watch him like a hawk around the fringes of the ruck.

Players to watch: Joining the Super Rugby century club on Saturday will be veteran winger Cory Jane, as the 33-year-old World Cup winner looks to mark his landmark moment with a try. Otherwise in the pack Ardie Savea will be looking to continue his rich run of form for the Hurricanes to keep up the pace with Sam Cane ahead of New Zealand's Test series against Wales in June.

The Jaguares standout player over the last two weeks on tour has been lock Tomás Lavanini and while he can often prove to be a handful for referees, the Test second-row makes up for it with his carrying and prowess at the lineout. Meanwhile we've already seen enough of Matías Orlando to know what a threat he can pose with ball in hand, but the Jaguares need a constant attack from him rather than flashes.

Team news: Jane becomes the eighth player to earn a century of caps for the Hurricanes after Tana Umaga, Rodney So’oialo, Neemia Tialata, Ma’a Nonu, Andrew Hore, Conrad Smith and Jeremy Thrush. There is just one personnel change in the backs where Julian Savea comes back into the side on the left wing pushing Jason Woodward back to full-back in place of James Marshall, who will miss Saturday’s match due to concussion. In the pack, Victor Vito returns from a calf strain to start at number eight, while Brad Shields takes his place at blindside flanker. Blade Thomson shuffles into lock to partner Michael Fatialofa, while Vaea Fifita moves into the reserves. Loosehead prop Reggie Goodes has recovered from concussion to replace Chris Eves in the starting team.

Jaguares head coach Raúl Pérez has made three changes, including two positional switches. Emiliano Boffelli shifts from the right wing to replace Ramiro Moyano at full-back. Matías Orlando comes in to the run-on side to wear the number 14 jersey. Nicolás Sánchez is recalled and starts at fly-half while Santiago González Iglesias, who wore the number 10 jersey in last weekend's loss to the Blues, moves to inside centre. The final change is in the forwards where Santiago García Botta comes in for Roberto Tejerizo.

Form: The Hurricanes suffered a calamitous loss on the opening day of the season against the Brumbies, shipping 50 points, before losing by a point to the Highlanders. Since then it's been three wins over the Blues, Force and Kings before last week's bye. The Hurricanes have won 11 of their last 13 matches against teams from outside of New Zealand, including the last two by a combined score line of 83-26.

Meanwhile the Jaguares, since their Round One 33-31 win over the Cheetahs, have suffered losses to the Sharks, Chiefs, Stormers and Blues.

Prediction: The Hurricanes should have enough to win the arm wrestle up front with the Jagaures before the backs do the rest. Hurricanes by nine.

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reggie Goodes 
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Proctor

Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matías Orlando, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Santiago García Botta
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Roberto Tejerizo, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 23 Joaquín Paz

Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Brett Johnson (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)