Preview: Reds v Hurricanes

Date published: April 24 2015

A week after suffering their first loss of the season, the table-topping Hurricanes will be hoping to get back on the horse against the Reds in Brisbane on Sunday.

Just how the 'Canes respond to last week's loss to the Waratahs will give us a clearer indication of their true title credentials.

Their high-risk, high-reward approach backfired last week as an intercept try and another against the run of play when they were attacking from inside their own half cost them a game that they really could have won.

With a lot at stake as we reach the last third of the regular season, the competition leaders must now weigh up their options more carefully.

"We've talked quite a bit this week about our risk and reward and we probably got it a little bit optimistic last week," said 'Canes coach Chris Boyd.

"I think we'll probably find that we'll peg it back a little bit this week."

Reds forwards coach Nick Stiles has identified his team's second-row pairing of James Horwill and Rob Simmons as being crucial to their chances of competing up front.

"I've been pretty happy with the scrum for most of the season and the first time this year we had James Horwill and Rob Simmons packing together, that's our strongest lock combination," said Stiles.

"I think the consistency that they showed in the way they scrummed set the platform up for us to be dominant against the Cheetahs."

The Hurricanes have won 10 of the last 12 clashes between these sides and having already picked up four wins on the road this year (a perfect record so far) they will fancy their chances against a Reds outfit that has won just one of their four home games in 2015.

The Reds are aiming for back-to-back victories for the first time since June last year. Since then, they have lost nine of 11.

Only the Bulls (27.3) have averaged more points than the Hurricanes (27) this season. The Reds have scored the fewest, an average of 12.3.

The Hurricanes have the competition's third-best defence in terms of fewest tries conceded (12), while only the Crusaders have scored more tries. 

The Reds’ try difference is -13 so far, compared to 14 by the 'Canes, so the visitors must be considered the favourites.

But with the Reds buoyed by a morale-boosting win in South Africa last week and the Hurricanes potentially starting to feel the pressure that comes with the tournament lead, expect the home side to put up a challenge.

The last time these team met: The Hurricanes outscored the Reds five tries to three – including a hat-trick for Cory Jane – to win 35-21 in Wellington last year. The Reds were up 14-10 at the interval of James Horwill's 100th Super Rugby game but the 'Canes cut loose after the interval, scoring three tries in the second period.

Players to watch: A more mature player since his return from France, James O'Connor was excellent last week and is showing signs that he may finally do his prodigious talent justice. Free from the playmaking responsibilities previous lumped on his shoulders, JOC is a threat out wide on the wing.

Another international star who is back to his best, Ma’a Nonu is enjoying his strongest Super Rugby season for years. A return to the Hurricanes has clearly been good for the All Black centre, who needs to keep producing top performances in order to keep Sonny Bill Williams out of New Zealand's 12 jersey.

Team news: Reds head coach Richard Graham has made four changes – two enforced – to his starting XV. Adam Korczyk will make his starting debut at blindside flanker in place of the injured Curtis Browning. An injury to Karmichael Hunt has forced a reshuffle, with veteran utility back Lachie Turner shifting from wing to full-back, Chris Feauai-Sautia goes from outside centre to wing while Anthony Fainga’a is brought back into the starting side at 12.

Hurricanes boss Chris Boyd has made two changes. A calf injury to Nehe Milner-Skudder means he makes way for James Marshall at full-back while Matt Proctor comes into the run-on side for Cory Jane on the right wing.

Form: The Reds' narrow victory over the Cheetahs (18-17) last week was only their second win of the year and ended a six-game losing streak.The Hurricanes equalled their club record for consecutive victories (7) until defeat to the Waratahs last week but have not lost consecutive matches since March 2014.

Predictions: Only the very brave would bet against the Hurricanes, whose record speaks for itself. Hurricanes by twelve points.

Previous results:

2014: Hurricanes won 35-21 in Wellington
2013: Reds won 18-12 in Brisbane
2011: Hurricanes won 28-26 in Wellington
2010: Hurricanes won 44-21 in Wellington

The teams:

Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Faagase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Chris Kuridrani.

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Callum Gibbins, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19. Mark Abbott, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Cory Jane.

Date: Sunday, April 26
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 16:05 local (06:05 GMT, 18:05 NZST, 08:05 SAST )
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Referees: Matt O'Brien, Damien Mitchelmore
TMO: Ian Smith