Preview: Hurricanes v Rebels

Date published: March 26 2015

Unbeaten as we reach Round Seven of Super Rugby, can anyone stop the Hurricanes? It's unlikely to be the Rebels in Wellington on Friday.

The Hurricanes' impressive start to the season has been reminiscent of the Chiefs' title-winning campaigns of the past few years.

While everyone raves about the 'Canes' ability to attack – which is fair enough considering they're scoring almost three tries per game – it's been their defensive effort which has been key.

The stats reveal that opponents of the Hurricanes have spent longer in possession (16m29s) than against any other side this season.

Their tackling stats are matched only by the Chiefs and Lions while they have been the best at winning rucks. It all highlights the 'Canes' ruthless ability to strike on the counter attack and to clinically grab chances when they are presented.

Ma'a Nonu has been superb and their pack have been consistently solid. The Rebels have the lowest line-out success rate (79 percent) this season, so chances are likely to be regular.

If past games are anything to go by we're in for a points festival with fixtures between these sides producing an average of almost 66 points per match.

Indeed, the Hurricanes’ last home match against the Rebels in May 2012 – which they won 66-24 – represents their highest ever points haul (66) in a Super Rugby match. The same game also marks the most points conceded by the Rebels in a game.

The last time these team met: The Hurricanes won 25-15 in Round 13 last year in Melbourne but didn't always have things their own way as they were outscored by two tries to one by the home side. 20 points from the boot of Beauden Barrett proved the difference.

Players to watch: Former Rebel Jason Woodward gets another chance at full-back against his former team. Nehe Milner-Skudder has been brilliant for the 'Canes but Woodward's inside knowledge could be invaluable. The door swings both ways as former All Black Tamati Ellison is a Wellington native and returns to his home town this weekend. Ellison made over 50 appearances for the Hurricanes, many inside Conrad Smith, before departing first for the Highlanders, and then the Rebels.

Team news: Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has opted to rest All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Ben Franks and Julian Savea. James Marshall is at 10 while Matt Proctor comes in for Savea and Woodward is at 15. Ben May is at tighthead. With Ardie Savea (finger) and Blade Thomson (concussion) ruled out, Callum Gibbins occupies the number seven jersey, with Adam Hill coming into the reserves.

Form: The Hurricanes extended their unbeaten run to five games with last week's 20-13 away to the Highlanders. The Rebels have won two of their five games this season, but were beaten 20-16 by the Lions at home last week. Both those victories came on road (against the Crusaders and Force).

Predictions: The Hurricanes' record this year makes it impossible to suggest anything other than a home win. But, there are significant changes to the hosts' team and the Rebels have been decent on the road, meaning it won't be a cakewalk at the Cake Tin. Hurricanes by 12 points.

Previous results:

2014: Hurricanes won 25-15 in Melbourne

2012: Hurricanes won 66-24 in Wellington

2011: Rebels won 42-25 in Melbourne

The teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thursh, 3 Ben May, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Reggis Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jerrery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Sefanaia Naivalu, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Jonah Placid.

Date: Friday, March 27
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium
Kick-off: 19.35 local (06.35 GMT, 17.35 AEST, 08.35 SAST)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)