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Preview: Hurricanes v Waratahs

05th April 2013 11:13

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Drew Mitchell Waratahs v Hurricanes 2012

Hurricanes v Waratahs: Battling for a play-off spot

There is plenty at stake in this trans-Tasman clash in Wellington as the winners are likely to secure a spot in the play-off positions.

After a poor start to their campaigns, both teams have done well in recent weeks. The Hurricanes are on a three-match winning streak, after victories over the Crusaders, Highlanders and Kings.

And the Waratahs managed successive wins over the Blues and Western Force.

These sides have played each other on 17 previous occasions with the Hurricanes holding a slight edge with nine victories to the Waratahs' eight.

Although the Hurrcianes beat the Waratahs 33-12, in Sydney last year, the visitors have held the upperhand in this fixture in recent seasons, winning four out of the five previous matches, including two in Wellington.

The Hurricanes have one of the most exciting back-lines in the tournament, with Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Andre Taylor leading the charge.

However, keep an eye on Savea's younger brother Ardie, who makes his debut in the competition.

The 19-year-old openside flanker is highly rated in New Zealand after impressing in the ITM Cup for Wellington.

The Hurricanes suffered a setback in their win over the Kings when lock Jeremy Thrush left the field with an ankle injury.

Thrush was one of the Hurricanes' main jumpers in the line-out and the set-piece is an area of the home side's game which the Waratahs will look to counter in their bid for victory.

The Waratahs have been criticised for their dour style of play but they have done well on attack in recent weeks.

Adam Ashley-Cooper has impressed at inside centre, as well as Israel Folau, who has proved a handful with ball in hand when joining the line from full-back.

Michael Cheika's side go into this clash with a more experienced pack than the 'Canes and will expect Wallabies like Benn Robinson, Sitaleki Timani, Michael Hooper and captain Dave Dennis to lead the charge up front.

Another Wallaby who will be keen to make an impact is Sekope Kepu. The front-rower hasn't started for the Waratahs in the past three games and was on the bench in their wins over the Blues and Force.

Prediction: Although the Waratahs have not lost to Hurricanes in Wellington in recent years, the home side's current form should see them edge out their visitors in a tight tussle. Hurricanes to win by four points!

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua , 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara , 8 Victor Vito / Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Ben May, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon / Reggie Goodes, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen / Reggie Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Faifili Levave / Jack Lam, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Reynold Lee-Lo.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Pat McCutcheon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Tom Kingston.

Date: Saturday, April 6
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

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