Round 13 of Super Rugby kicks off with a bang when the Hurricanes host the Brumbies at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday.
This looms as a crunch clash in the New Zealand capital between two of the surprise acts of 2012 as both teams look to underline their finals credentials.
Both the Brumbies and the Hurricanes finished near the bottom of the ladder last season after they battled through tough campaigns. But their decision to invest in new talent is beginning to pay dividends.
The Jake White-coached Brumbies, coming off a bye and following wins over the Waratahs and Lions, will provide a real challenge for the Hurricanes who are also chasing a hat-trick of victories following derby wins over the Blues and Highlanders.
The Hurricanes have six wins from 11 starts this season, and sit eighth on the overall Super Rugby table with 34 points. In a congested overall table and a tight New Zealand conference race, victory over the Brumbies would likely push them higher in both ladders.
The Brumbies also have six wins, topping the Australia conference with 39 points - eight points clear of the second-placed Reds - and lie third overall.
A win away from home will almost certainly guarentee the two-time Super Rugby champs, who are still to play the return games against all four Australian sides, a place in the play-offs for the first time in eight seasons .
A loss, however, will leave the Brumbies vulnerable as they face defending champions Queensland - up against the last-placed Lions on Saturday - the following weekend at Canberra Stadium.
Both sides will field new fly-halves, as Tusi Pisi comes in for the rested Beauden Barrett who moves to the bench after starting in all 11 matches this year.
The Brumbies will have to do without their livewire fly-half Christian Lealiifano who is out for the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Lealiifano is the one who sparked the Brumbies backline and it will be interesting to see how they cope without his magic, with Zack Holmes tasked to fill the void.
In this corresponding match last year in Canberra the home side won 17-16, breaking a run of four consecutive wins for the Hurricanes against the Brumbies.
Prediction: Even though this is a completely different side, the fact remains that the Brumbies haven't won three games in a row since the start of the 2010 campaign and have struggled to win in Wellington since 2003. They'll give the 'Canes a run for their money, but we think the home side should have the upper hand. Hurricanes by seven!
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Jack Lam, 20 Chris Eaton, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Jayden Hayward.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Fotu Auelua, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen (c), 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Nic White, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Tevita Kuridrani.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)