Who do you think will win between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes?
Confidence is oozing out of the Hurricanes camp with prop Ben May saying the side are mentally and physically better equipped than last time they played the high-flying Chiefs.
There was a noticeably relaxed mood at training yesterday as the Hurricanes put the finishing touches to their preparation for tomorrow's big match at Westpac Stadium.
Bracketed wing Cory Jane (ankle) and halfback Chris Eaton (hamstring) got through a sharp and largely error-free team run.
The Hurricanes' task is to win and score four tries in the process if they are to have any realistic chance of reaching the Super Rugby playoffs.
May dismissed any notion of overconfidence, but said the squad remained on a high after their 23-22 win over the Crusaders and were determined not to end the round robin with a whimper.
"The Chiefs are very physical. We know they will come hard, not just at the set piece, but at the breakdown," he said.
"But I think we've upped our reputation in the physicality stakes.
"We really hooked into the Crusaders, so we'll be looking to win the battle up front.
"It was a real confidence booster to play a side like that [the Crusaders] and have so much not go our way and still win ... we looked at that match and didn't think we played to our full potential and we still won."
The scrum has been under the microscope since and a timely visit from scrum guru Mike Cron this week has helped.
May acknowledged both the Hurricanes and Chiefs had been "towelled" by the Crusaders, but did not believe the traditional set piece would be definitive in Wellington where a more even battle beckons.
Most of the battle, he believed, would be waged in the open as both sides chased the bonus point.
"Rucks are becoming another set piece almost.
"If you can't get them right it doesn't really matter how good your set piece is either because rucks have become such a battle," he said.
"The boys are keen and we plan to throw everything at it.
"We need a five pointer to be fair, we can't just win, so we will come out ripping into it.
"There are two pretty potent backlines, so that's where I'd say everyone will be looking to get the ball."
Both sides are well equipped for an open skirmish.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has the luxury of leaving All Black openside Sam Cane in his reserves behind Tanerau Latimer, while Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has Brad Shields to summon from his bench.
Rennie made seven changes to the side that started against the Crusaders; some to rest players and others to create competition.
No8 Kane Thompson joins Latimer and Liam Messam in a revamped loose trio, loosehead prop Toby Smith and hooker Hika Elliott replace Sona Taumalolo and Mahonri Schwalger respectively and lock and captain Craig Clarke is back after missing a week due to illness.
In the backs, Andrew Horrell reverts to fullback with Jackson Willison reclaiming his place at centre, while Robbie Robinson moves to the left wing in place of Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Lelia Masaga replaces Tim Nanai-Williams on the right.
Last time the sides played, the Chiefs won 33-14, but if May is correct it might be a lot closer this time around.
Whatever the case, it seems neither side will die wondering, with the visitors also needing a bonus-point win to ensure home advantage through the playoffs.
HURRICANES: Andre Taylor, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Chris Eaton/Frae Wilson, Victor Vito, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Reg Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Wilson/Jamie Nutbrown, Tusi Pisi, Jayden Hayward.
CHIEFS: Andrew Horrell, Lelia Masaga, Jackson Willison, Sonny Bill Williams, Robbie Robinson, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke, Ben Tamiefuna, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Sona Taumalolo, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Tim Nanai-Williams.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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