Results keep hopes alive, says Mark Hammett
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett says his side are down, but far from out.
The Hurricanes have dropped to eighth on the Super Rugby ladder and will almost certainly need to win each of their remaining four matches to have any hope of reaching the playoffs.
That's a tough ask that starts against the defending champion Chiefs in Wellington this weekend, but Hammett believes the unpredictable nature of the current season means anything is possible over the final five rounds.
"Looking at results and getting up to watch the Brumbies lose to the Cheetahs it just shows you nothing is said and done at the moment," Hammett said yesterday.
"We are really disappointed we couldn't get over the line against the Highlanders on Friday because imagine what it would look like for us right now, but that's a what if. Certainly the weekend's other results have helped us."
It's not often the Cantabrian takes any pleasure out of watching his former team the Crusaders lose, but he admitted some relief at the Sharks' remarkable 30-25 win in Christchurch on Saturday.
Losses by the Brumbies, Force and Crusaders means the Hurricanes are still mathematically within touching distance of the top six.
The big question is how many points will be needed to reach the playoffs.
The Hurricanes are on 31 points, but with only four matches to play, may need bonus points to keep their slim hopes alive on the basis that last year's cut-off point for the top six was 54.
"First and foremost are wins so that's what we'll plan for," Hammett said. "Our style of play is more likely to produce tries anyway, so it's not [our] mentality playing for bonus points. If we get our game right we're likely to score four tries any way."
The Hurricanes more immediate concern is the health of first five-eighth Beauden Barrett (hip) and hooker Dane Coles (back).
Hammett hopes to know more on the pair in coming days as they come under the care of the All Blacks medical staff during the national training camp in Christchurch.
The Hurricanes are half the side without Barrett's influence, while the lineout malfunctioned badly during the 18-16 loss to the Highlanders.
Reserve hooker Motu Matu'u is recovering from a whack in an eye, while his replacement Ash Dixon is struggling with sore ribs.
The Hurricanes will need all hands on deck against a Chiefs side rested after the bye round and with nine players in Christchurch, Hammett faces a tricky buildup. Those at the All Blacks training camp will have just one full training before the match.
On the bright side, Hammett said a review of the Highlanders match suggested the Hurricanes had not done a lot wrong in a match that could have tipped either way.
"We've just come out of the review and you certainly go, 'how did we lose that game?'," he said.
"We had 13 line breaks to two, we played some good footy, we handled every high ball and our defence was outstanding. It's the first time since I've been here we've had a team not score a try against us in a game, so there were a lot of positives."