It's the penultimate round of Super Rugby before the play-offs, with Friday's line-up featuring teams with nothing but pride at stake.
It's the penultimate round of Super Rugby before the knock-out stages in two weeks time, with Friday's line-up featuring teams with nothing but pride at stake.
Hopes of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs were dashed a long time ago, but there's still be plenty on the line for the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Brumbies and Rebels.
Friday's fixtures feature New Zealand's as well as Australia's bottom two sides, who are all desperate to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon for finishing last in their respective conferences.
A loss for the Chiefs, who are a point below the Hurricanes, would make them odds-on to finish the regular season at the foot of the New Zealand Conference.
A win for the Brumbies will keep the Rebels rooted at the bottom of the Australian Conference as well as the overall log in their first year in the expanded competition.
Chiefs v Hurricanes
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
The tenth-placed Chiefs will be looking to leapfrog the Hurricanes into ninth and continue their late surge in 2011, when the two Kiwi outfits clash in Hamilton.
The home side are on a roll recently, having won four out of their last six games after struggling in the early stages of the competition.
They most recently knocked over the New Zealand Conference-leading Blues at Eden Park, and have a chance of making it back-to-back wins this weekend at Waikato Stadium.
The Chiefs are unbeaten in their last three outings at home, but face a Hurricanes team who are also experiencing a late revival in the 2011 Super Rugby season.
It's been a tough season for the Wellington-based franchise and last weekend's come-from-behind win over the Lions at Westpac Stadium coupled with their gritty fightback against the Force, finally gave their fans something to smile about – even if it was against two teams below them on the ladder.
The form of key Hurricanes players is what's making coach Mark Hammett sleep easier at night with Aaron Cruden firing on all cylinders, Piri Weepu lasting close to a full game and Ma'a Nonu back to his tackle-busting best.
Speaking of which, if rumours are true, then the Chiefs could have the All Blacks powerhouse playing alongside, rather than against, them next year. This, after Nonu's Hurricanes' contract wasn't extended earlier this week.
The Hurricanes camp has been rocked by Hammett's midweek decision to sack Nonu and captain Andrew Hore for the 2012 season, and should provide the Chiefs with plenty of ammunition necessary to take advantage of what has been a turbulent week for the visitors.
Prediction: Tough to call. When the teams met in early March, the Hurricanes came from behind to pip the Chiefs 29-26. That was then, this is now and it also really all depends on how the Hurricanes respond to the exit of Hore and Nonu at the end of the season. Will the Hurricanes' rally around their unwanted team-mates? No doubt. But we think home comforts will help the Chiefs along to a win. Chiefs by five!
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam , 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Matt Vant Leven, 19 TBC, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Tim Nanai-Williams, 22 Jackson Willison.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Mark Reddish/Karl Lowe, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Jayden Hayward, 22 Richard Buckman.
Referee: Steve Walsh
Brumbies v Rebels
Canberra Stadium, Canberra
The Rebels will be out to make it a double over the Brumbies in 2011, and end a seven-match losing streak in the process when the two teams clash at Canberra Stadium.
The Brumbies' dreadful slide this season began in Melbourne when the tournament newcomers bounced back from an opening 43-0 hammering to the Waratahs, to edge Matt Giteau's team 25-24.
The Rebels have only managed two further wins following Danny Cipriani's last-minute heroics that day, while the Brumbies haven't fared any better – winning two and drawing another.
The two-time Super Rugby champs' most recent victory came at Suncorp Stadium a week ago, where – against all odds – the Brumbies beat the table-topping Reds on their home ground.
In winning the match at Suncorp, the Brumbies ended the Reds' run of 12-straight victories at home and are now eyeing back-to-back wins – something they have failed to achieve this season.
And with seven former Brumbies players having been named in the Rebels side, the match is sure to carry more than enough feeling.
A win from either side would also go a long way to avoiding the wooden spoon, with the Brumbies looking to jump even higher up the ladder over the Force into third place.
Prediction: We are never backing the Rebels again! Even if it was a bit of a tongue in cheek prediction (sigh!). Brumbies by nine.
Brumbies: 15 Christian Lealiifano, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Patrick McCabe, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Mitchell Chapman, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Henry Vanderglas, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Jerry Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Sam Carter, 19 Tom Boidin, 20 Nic White, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Andrew Smith.
Rebels: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Julian Huxley, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Lachlan Mitchell, 21 Peter Betham, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.
Referee: Glen Jackson