Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett says his side face a simple task of throwing the kitchen sink at the Crusaders when they return from the Super Rugby break.
High fives in the coaches box marked the end of the Hurricanes' 33-12 win over the Waratahs on Saturday night, but not just because they'd achieved a rare win in Sydney.
The scenes of jubilation were sparked by replacement halfback Chris Eaton's try on fulltime, one that provided a bonus point that has shunted his side into sixth place on the ladder.
"To get that try on fulltime was great, particularly from a planned lineout move," Hammett said yesterday.
"We have those moves every game, but they don't always come off, so for it to come off in a major play and to get the bonus point there were a lot of high fives in the coaches' box."
The Hurricanes' eighth win of the season lifts them a point clear of the Highlanders and ahead of the Sharks, who faltered with a 38-28 loss to the Lions, on points differential.
Crucially, they are now just six points behind the Crusaders, who they play immediately after the competition's three-week break, followed by a bye before the final round robin match against the Chiefs in Wellington.
"It'll be interesting to see how the game is taken on after the break and what the impact of All Black rugby does," Hammett said. "I'm as interested as anyone to see how it all unfolds.
"It's exciting for us as far as where we are going into the break. We get a chance to recoup and recover and if we could come back and beat the Crusaders we'll have that last home game against the Chiefs which could mean a hell of a lot, it could be a massive game.
"From a marketing and excitement point of view for the players there is still a hell of a lot to play for.
"We'll throw everything at both games."
And Hammett indicated his side might be under less pressure than their more fancied opponents.
"Our situation's a bit different. If we are in the top six or not we are trying to build something that's a bit bigger than just this year."
Hammett's players will have a varied schedule in coming weeks.
Six players – Brad Shields, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, James Broadhurst, Faifili Levave and Richard Buckman – will assemble on Friday to play in the North-South rugby fundraiser match in Dunedin.
And Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith and Victor Vito will be involved in the All Blacks' test series against Ireland.
There is also a friendly match against the Reds on the Gold Coast to fit in, one that will provide valuable game time for some of the Hurricanes' less utilised squad members.
Hammett was most pleased with the defence against the Waratahs after his side held their opponents tryless for the first time this season, at one stage repelling 16 phases before responding with three tries in the final quarter.
Repeatedly this year reserves like hooker Motu Matu'u, loose forward Shields and halfback Eaton have provided polished and energetic finishes.
In Sydney it was no different, with first five-eighth Tusi Pisi putting an accurate punt to the corner where a smart lineout move saw Eaton dive over to add to tries from Savea, Matu'u and Smith.
Meanwhile, four tries to wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma played a huge part in the Chiefs repelling a fired up Blues side at North Harbour.
The 41-34 win gives the competition-leading Chiefs some breathing space ahead of tough matches against the Highlanders, Crusaders and Hurricanes.
The Brumbies remain well placed to win the Australian conference after their win over the Melbourne Rebels, while a Bryan Habana-inspired Stormers, who have a good run home, firmed as the likely South African champions with a 19-14 win over the Bulls.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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