Patience a virtue as the Hurricanes regroup

HE'S THE MAN: Australian halfback Will Genia says five-eighth Quade Cooper, pictured, is the only one he wants to see starting with him against the British and Irish Lions.
HE'S THE MAN: Australian halfback Will Genia says five-eighth Quade Cooper, pictured, is the only one he wants to see starting with him against the British and Irish Lions.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was an interesting case study as he readied his troops for tonight's match against the Reds.

It seems odd to talk about must-wins in week two, but a loss in Brisbane would be unpalatable for a Hurricanes side that fluffed its lines on opening night.

Winning at home will be crucial this Super Rugby season and in slipping against the Blues, the Hurricanes missed a trick.

Hammett's frown lines will deepen, as will those of the bean counters, at the thought of returning to Westpac Stadium for round three against the Crusaders with two losses.

Hammett has been here before and might have reflected this week on his first year in charge, and his reaction after watching his side recklessly throw away a healthy lead before losing 42-25 to the Melbourne Rebels.

On that occasion the former All Blacks hooker gave his players both barrels in the dressing room in what was the catalyst for a fallout with senior players.

This time Hammett has struck a different pose. The week started with a light-hearted blowout, plenty of laughs, plenty of bonding. As the week progressed he mixed stern messages with words of reassurance and confidence.

Hammett faces a familiar dilemma when it comes to the Hurricanes. Pull too hard on the reins and the horse will buck, pull too gently and it will career out of control.

"You have to earn your yards. Probably we pushed things a wee bit too early [against the Blues], so that's been the focus this week, that we earn the right to play before playing," he said.

"It was one of those funny ones watching through the game on Sunday. I was thinking there were so many positives I can pull out of this, but we also have to be real. Our standards have to be higher than that."

To a degree Hammett has taken the focus off his own team and put it on the Reds and the threat posed by mercurial playmaker Quade Cooper and game-breaking wing Digby Ioane. Contain them and the Hurricanes will go a long way to beating a side that looked average in losing to the Brumbies, then decent in beating the Waratahs.

Though not the biggest side, the Reds are well coached by Ewen McKenzie, have a rugged loose forward trio of Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill, Jake Schatz and disruptive men in lock Rob Simmons and hooker Saia Faingaa.

But they may also present counter-attack opportunities for the Hurricanes to exploit.

When the Reds commit they commit in numbers and if Karl Lowe, Brad Shields and Victor Vito can get things right at the breakdown and earn turnovers the field could open up.

That will put the onus on playmakers Beauden Barrett and Tim Bateman to strike the balance between unleashing Alapati Leiua, Andre Taylor and Julian Savea, or turning the Reds around and playing territory.

"What I like about the Reds is they prepare well for each game," Hammett said. "They're not a one-trick pony. If they decided the game is to switch a lot they switch, if it's flowing they do that.

"Hopefully they're a wee bit like us in they analyse well and pull out the game plan appropriate for that game."

The Reds have won 22 of their last 25 games at Suncorp Stadium, but the Hurricanes are something of a bogy team.

The last time the Hurricanes lost to the Reds was in 2007, the only slip-up in their past 10 matches.


Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Sky Sport 1: 11.20pm, tonight

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (AUS)

TAB odds: Reds $1.50, Hurricanes $2.45

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Reg Goodes, James Broadhurst, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Reynold Lee-Lo.

Reds: Aidan Toua, Dom Shipperley, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, Ed O'Donoghue, Rob Simmons, James Slipper (c), Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Reserves: James Hanson, Albert Anae, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Radike Samo, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris, Luke Morahan. 

The Dominion Post