Planet Rugby

Preview: Highlanders v Hurricanes

20th March 2014 04:58

Share:

Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders makes a break

Impressive: Malakai Fekitoa

The Highlanders take on a rejuvenated Hurricanes side in Round Six's opening match in Dunedin on Friday.

After a bright start, which saw them secure a home victory against the Blues and suffer a narrow loss to defending champions, the Chiefs, the Highlanders' campaign hit a snag when they suffered an unexpected home defeat to the Western Force last weekend.

The Dunedin-based outfit welcome back veteran lock Brad Thorn, who has recovered from a rib injury - sustained in the Blues clash - which kept him on the sidelines for the past two weeks.

The 39-year-old former All Black's inclusion will boost the Highlanders' forward effort and his partnership with Joe Wheeler, who has impressed since the start of the season, has the potential to grow into one of the best second-row duos in the tournament.

However, like most New Zealand sides, the Highlanders' main strengths lie in their back-line where they have several potent attacking options. All Blacks Ben Smith and Aaron Smith are amongst the best players in their respective positions in the competition but also keep an eye on Richard Buckman and Malakai Fekitoa.

The young duo have impressed with some fine performances for the Highlanders this season and Fekitoa has proved to be one of the finds of the season. Don't be surprised if he continues where he left off against the Force where he was one of the best players on display.

After a poor start, in which they lost their first three games - to the Sharks, Stormers and Brumbies - the Hurricanes bounced back in style with an emphatic 60-27 victory over the Cheetahs last weekend.

The men from Wellington, in particular coach Mark Hammett were under pressure to deliver the goods against the Cheetahs and they did just that, crossing over for nine tries.

It was also a fitting tribute for veteran centre and captain Conrad Smith who played in his 100th Super rugby match for the Hurricanes.

Afterwards Smith said the win came at the right time and hoped that result was a sign of things to come this weekend and during the rest of their campaign.

"It's nice hearing the talk after the game with a lot of the guys saying that [we can build on this]," he told Fairfax Media.

"We've got a couple of tests on the road now, a couple of New Zealand teams which I think is good.

"We haven't played a Kiwi team yet and the guys always say there's a bit more edge to those games and I think we're ready for that.

"The Highlanders have started strongly, the Crusaders are a great side, so we'll have two good games to gauge how we're going."

The last time these sides faced each other, the Highlanders claimed a 49-44 victory in last year's Round 19 clash in Wellington, but the Hurricanes will not read too much into that result as they registered a 23-19 win earlier during their Round Five clash in Dunedin.

Prediction: In true New Zealand style, this fixture will be a high-scoring affair with both sides providing plenty of entertainment. The Highlanders have looked good in all their matches this season but the same cannot be said of the Hurricanes. Highlanders to win by six points!

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Shaun Treeby.

Hurricanes 15 Marty Banks, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jack Lam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Blade Thomson/Adam Hill, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Andre Taylor.

Date: Friday, March 21
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 local (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26