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Hurricanes v Chiefs: Canes beaten by a better team, All Blacks bolter emerges

By Finn Morton
Chiefs' Cortez Ratima celebrates his try with Luke Jacobson during the Super Rugby Pacific semi-final match between the Wellington Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs at Sky Stadium in Wellington on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Grant Down / AFP) (Photo by GRANT DOWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chiefs are through to the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final after knocking off minor premiers the Hurricanes 30-19 at Wellington’s Sky Stadium.


While the idea of playing against the Canes in front of thousands of Wellingtonians at the Cake Tin might seem like a daunting task to some, the Chiefs were more than up for the fight.

Samipeni Finau scored inside the opening few minutes which set the tone for the evening, before Cortez Ratima added another five-points to the Chiefs’ advantage soon after.

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The Hurricanes fought valiantly as they looked to claw their way back into the contest but it was almost always one-way traffic as the visitors hung on for a famous win.

Here are some takeaways from the Chiefs’ win over the Hurricanes, with the men from Hamilton set to face the Blues at Auckland’s Eden Park in the Grand Final.

Hurricanes beaten by a better team on the day

It’s still been quite a successful season for the Hurricanes. They won 12 of 14 regular season matches to lock up top spot before the playoffs, and backed that up with an impressive quarter-final win over the Melbourne Rebels.

But their victory only ensured their season would last at least one week longer, and ready to cause an upset in the semi-finals was the Chiefs. The Hurricanes had defeated the men from Hamilton in two nail-biters this season, and another classic awaited.


There was a sense of hope, belief and general optimism from Canes fans but their dreams of a title were soon dashed by a visiting side who couldn’t have gotten off to a more idyllic start. Samipeni Finau and Cortez Ratima scored a try each inside the first six minutes.

Hurricanes captain Brad Shields later said that those two scores caught the hosts in a state of “shock” and they struggled to bounce back. Even with the Chiefs losing two players to the sin bin, the Canes couldn’t quite wrestle their way back into it.

Mistakes in general play including knock-ons and wasteful kicking gifted the Chiefs too many opportunities to strike. You can’t do that in knockout rugby and that went a long way to deciding the victor in the end.

Jordie Barrett and Ruben Love were among the players who seemed to struggle against the might of a Chiefs outfit with plenty to play for. They looked more confident and assured as the scoreboard showed when Angus Gardner blew his whistle for full-time.


It’s just a shame that one of the Hurricanes’ worst performances of the year came in a home semi-final.


Wallace Sititi has emerged as a genuine All Blacks candidate

The Chiefs’ clash with the Hurricanes in a Super Rugby Pacific semi-final is practically the closest thing many of these players will have to an All Blacks trial. There isn’t a North versus South derby, or a possible versus probable clash to look forward to.

Regular season form is what catches the national selectors’ attention, but knockout footy is when players secure their place in the prestigious New Zealand squad. If you believe this to be the case, then there are individual winners and losers from this semi-final.

One man who has certainly put his hand up for international honours is Chiefs backrower Wallace Sititi. At just 21 years of age, the North Harbour loosie stole the show by running for more than 145 metres from 17 carries and making 12 tackles as well.

Sititi packed down alongside All Blacks Luke Jacobson and Samipeni Finau but came up against the Hurricanes’ trio of Brad Shields, Peter Lakai and Brayden Iose. All three men are international-calibre players.

But, as former New Zealand halfback Justin Marshall reflected, Sititi was a class above.

“When you’re talking about the calibre of loose forwards that were out there, and plenty of them in-form, for such a young player to be able to step up,” former All Black Justin Marshall said on Sky Sport NZ’s post-game coverage.

“He was really powerful off the scrum, he carried hard, ran hard all day (and) gave the Chiefs the momentum and the go forward they needed.

“Yes, some spectacular momentums; linebreaks, ability with speed when he gets into space to make a difference… but in general, when you’ve got the balance right – scrum hard, work hard, d your core role, tackle hard, physical – a genuine, classic number eight performance.

“Outstanding from the young man. Wallace Sititi, superb.”

It’s quite easy in both Australia and New Zealand to get excited about uncapped players who show some potential. Reds winger Tim Ryan was almost immediately thrown into international contention by fans after a scintillating starting debut against the Blues earlier this season.

Some players are able to make that seamless transition from Super Rugby newbie to Test regular almost immediately, while others are thrown into the deep end far too soon. Because of that, there’s a reason to be cautious here.

But give credit where it’s due.

Wallace Sititi doesn’t just look ready to take that next step, the backrow product out of Auckland seems like he’d be more than comfortable taking on Maro Itoje and the rest of the England squad next month.

As for others, Emoni Narawa and Cortez Ratima (presuming he’s fit) both look ready to take that next step in July. Ratima is yet to debut while Narawa played one Test in the black jersey last year before a tough back injury.

Both men should start against England and Sititi should be in the mix to come off the bench at the very least.

Match Summary

Penalty Goals
Drop Goals
Line Breaks
Turnovers Lost
Turnovers Won

Billy Proctor will debut for the All Blacks this year.

With Scott Robertson leading the way for the All Blacks, there’s been a lot of talk during Super Rugby Pacific about how the new coach might change things with the All Blacks. There appears to be some positional vacancies that could see uncapped players step up.

Jordie Barrett, David Havili, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown were the four centres picked for the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup squad under Ian Foster, and that same quartet could conceivably be called upon under ‘Razor.’

But that seems unlikely.

Younger players are knocking at the All Blacks’ door and some will potentially make the cut including halfback Cortez Ratima, Brayden Iose in the backrower and more.

Then there’s the potential bolter at centre.

The Hurricanes’ Billy Proctor has been a reliable option in the No. 13 jersey for quite some time now. With a handful of caps with the Maori All Blacks, there’s every chance the 25-year-old could be called upon to play against England and/or Fiji in July.

Proctor, who scored four tries for the All Blacks XV against Japan last year, started all 12 appearances for the Hurricanes this season. The centre scored three tries, but was especially impressive in general play – including in defence, much like his All Black brother Matt.

While the Hurricanes went down swinging to the Chiefs, Proctor was at times a shining light. You can’t fault the midfielder’s effort, with Proctor running for close to 50 metres from 12 carries, which included one line break, two defenders beaten and a try in the 71st minute.

Compared to All Blacks veteran Anton Lienert-Brown, who lined up opposite Proctor in the Chiefs’ No. 13 jumper, the attacking duel was won by the Hurricane.

All Blacks great Conrad Smith recently told RugbyPass that Proctor was “someone to watch” ahead of the international season, and performances like that are why. It wasn’t perfect, far from it, but it would’ve been enough to tick some more All Blacks boxes.


Last 5 Meetings

Average Points scored
First try wins
Home team wins

Damian McKenzie is clearly the best flyhalf in the competition

For any team to get to this stage of the competition, their flyhalf needs to be both reliable and able to handle immense pressure. All four No. 10’s from the semi-finals have shown that time and time again this season.

Noah Lolesio was key to helping the Brumbies close out tight wins over the Hurricanes and later the Crusaders during the regular season. Without the influence of the Wallaby, that side from the ACT just wouldn’t be the same.

As for the Hurricanes, Brett Cameron has been a bit hit-and-miss from the kicking tee, but one moment that stands out is that clutch penalty to beat the Chiefs in Hamilton during the regular season. That’s a key moment that probably isn’t spoken about enough.

Harry Plummer has been the Blues’ best player and Damian McKenzie has once again shown rugby fans in the southern hemisphere that he’s the best playmaker that New Zealand has to offer.

McKenzie has been a little quiet as of late, but the All Black stood up when it counted with a great performance in Wellington. The first five-eighth nailed the first conversion of the night which set the tone for what was to come.

The Hurricanes kicked plenty of ball McKenzie’s way and the New Zealander was able to turn that into an advantage in the territory battle with good exits or by running the ball back himself. It was simple yet masterful.

If anyone doubts who should start in the No. 10 jersey next month against England then look no further than this match.

Flyhalf is as important to a rugby team as a quarterback is to an American football side. The Chiefs wouldn’t be a genuine title contender without Damian McKenzie.

Hoskins Sotutu probably gets the nod as the MVP of the season, but there’s almost no doubt that McKenzie has been the best back in the competition once again.


The Blues should be seen as favourites before Grand Final

To say the Blues were clinical against the Brumbies is almost an understatement. Right from the get-go, they controlled that semi-final, and they never looked like surrendering their advantage against a tough ACT outfit.

They won their semi-final comfortably and waited about 24 hours to see who they would be facing in the big dance. Rugby fans now know that the Blues will challenge the Chiefs for the honour of becoming Super Rugby Pacific champions in 2024.

That’ll be played in Auckland.

The Blues will have a home crowd cheering them on, and that’s supremely important. It’s tough for teams to win on the road with a title on the line – although, the Crusaders did it last year in Hamilton.

When you consider the home-ground advantage and the style they’re playing, which seems almost Springboks-esque in how they approach knockout rugby, they should be seen as the favourites to take out the crown.

The Chiefs are a world-class side as they showed against the Hurricanes. With Damian McKenzie playing to such a high standard, it’s hard to stop them. But they’ll be beaten and bruised and could be without some key players.

Samisoni Taukei’aho, Bradley Slater and Cortez Ratima all went off injured. Whether or not they’re good to go for the Grand Final remains to be seen, but the Chiefs need all three to have a chance of upsetting the Blues at Eden Park.


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William 31 days ago

being a neutral observer I was staggered with the poor officiating from mainly the TMOs during this match. It looked like different rules for the Hurricanes and I refer to Perenaras head clash and Sullivan’s blatantly late tackle. It would be nice for some consistency, although not holding my breath

Red and White Dynamight 31 days ago

Someone explain how TJ face-plant is not a penalty but Cane’s marginal mistiming in RWC Final was a RC.

Red and White Dynamight 31 days ago

Sensational match, highest quality. Makes that nonsense from URC look 2nd rate. NZ rugby in rude health.

Jmann 32 days ago

The Hurricanes played poorly and didn’t stick to their usual plan. Nor did they use their vastly superior set piece to any great advantage. They kicked abysmally and allowed the Chiefs too much latitude in the ruck (although Gardner was typically poor there as usual). They really only have themselves to blame in losing to the Chiefs - who will likely come unstuck against Auckland who seem to have more faith in their plan.

Jon 32 days ago

A great contest and spectacle ruined by an over officious TMO. Really thought the comp had left behind all of the games northern impacts this year. Hope the guy gets a blasting.

Slater should be good and looking forward to seeing Tyrone Thomspon, can he put in a performance now to get noticed by Razor?

Another 32 days ago

One observation of the Super season from a NZ perspective has been the trend towards upsizing the open-side flankers.

Papali’i has always been a big unit at No.7 for the Blues but Peter Lakai, previously a No.8, converted to the open side early this season and made much headway throughout the normal season as an exciting driving force. However, we’ve also seen utility loosies - Blackadder and Jacobson shift to No.7 also.

This has made way for creating more space for ball carrying No.8s to shine also perhaps - take your pick from Sotutu and Sititi in the final.

I’m wondering whether this development might also see Savea return to the side of the scrum in the upcoming All Black season also?

Alister 32 days ago

I have watched rugby all my life but apparently if you look at Jacobson tackle on Jody that’s a yellow, to much force.Then you rule out a try for a Tackle on TJ so far behind the play to be a total joke?At one stage I thought Brad Shields might have been called for a knock on as he walked out.Then when I thought I had seen it all somehow TJ stays on the field for what Is clearly a face on face hit,yet no consequences

JD Kiwi 32 days ago

The team that finished second certainly had the easiest draw through the playoffs. It's going to be tough for the Chiefs to put in another big effort after that battle.

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