Hurricanes need a few favours, says Hammett

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2014
Mark Hammett
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ONE LAST FLING: Mark Hammett will quit the Hurricanes for the Cardiff Blues after the current Super Rugby campaign.

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Mark Hammett is praying to the rugby gods to give him a break.

The Hurricanes' Super Rugby playoff hopes are in the hands of the gods after a weekend that started with a dark night in Hamilton, but ended with a glimmer of light.

Heading into their final round bye, Hammett's men sit in fifth place on the log, one point clear of the Brumbies, Force and Chiefs.

All three can sail past them on Friday night, but if the Chiefs lose to the Blues and one of the Brumbies and Force don't get a point, the Hurricanes will finish sixth, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Hammett, justifiably, feels like he has had a rough ride on the injury front and news yesterday that No 8 Brad Shields will be out for five to six weeks with a fractured eye-socket, continued an horrendous run.

Loose forward Faifili Levave, who had surgery on a foot last week, midfielder Alapati Leiua and fullback Andre Taylor (both ankle) are also gone regardless of whether their team makes the playoffs.

And though captain Conrad Smith (broken thumb) and loose forward Victor Vito (calf) are a chance, Hammett knows his luck will need to turn for his fourth and final year at the helm to end on a bright note.

"We are just crossing our fingers and toes and all the rest because we'd love that game on the weekend not to be the last one," Hammett said yesterday in reference to Friday's flat 24-16 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

"We've been checking all the results and scenarios on how we can get there. Unfortunately that's out of our hands, but hopefully we can get a few things roll our way. I remember in 2012 not one thing fell for us, so I'm hoping this time around things can work out differently."

Two years ago the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs in the final match of the round robin, only to miss out to the Brumbies, Sharks and Bulls on bonus points. This time around that statistic as well as a healthy points differential and a superior number of wins and tries would see them edge both the Chiefs and Blues should they finish tied on 41 points.

Not so with the Brumbies or Force, who have one more win, so Hammett is hoping one of the other will come out comprehensive winners in Canberra.

The penultimate round worked out for the Hurricanes with the Crusaders all but ending the Blues' season in Christchurch and the Bulls dipping out with a loss to the Stormers.

Whatever unfolds this weekend, Hammett said his side would prepare as though its season was not over when most of the players report for work this morning.

"It's a bye week anyway and obviously the All Blacks guys as well as [Samoan flanker] Jack [Lam] have had a pretty hectic time, so they will have a bit of time off because if we make it through then we have all of next week to prepare," Hammett said.

"The rest of the group is as usual except on Wednesday we have the Hurricanes schools camp and everyone is involved in that either in coaching or presenting.

"Other than that it's a normal week and we are planning on being in the best nick we can so that if we are still there the following week then we're ready to go."

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Hammett shared his players' disappointment at not beating the Chiefs and sealing a playoff berth, but said it was always going to be a big ask to win in Hamilton.

"Having watched the Chiefs closely they've lost some games this season, but you can see how close they've been and how dangerous they are. It's a hard place to win at the best of times and they certainly turned up on the night."

If the Hurricanes do squeak through then they will finish in sixth place, setting up an away playoff match against the third-placed team.

That could be any of the Sharks, Crusaders or Highlanders, with a trip to Durban the most likely on current form.

- Stuff

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