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‘Quite frankly…’: Ex-All Black makes telling prediction for Kiwi derby

By Finn Morton
Justin Sangster of the Hurricanes celebrates with his team after scoring a try during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Rugby World Cup winning All Black Mils Muliaina believes there is “no way” the Highlanders record what would be a stunning upset win over the high-flying Hurricanes at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Saturday.


The Hurricanes sent yet another message to the teams in Super Rugby Pacific last Friday night when they made the trip north to Hamilton and left with a hard-fought win over fellow contenders the Chiefs.

Clark Laidlaw’s men sit in second place on the ladder heading into the final round of the regular season, but as they sit equal on 51 competition points with the first-placed Blues, there’s still every chance the Hurricanes end up on top.

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For that to happen, the Hurricanes need to beat the Highlanders with a winning bonus point and hope the Chiefs can prevent the Blues from doing the same in another blockbuster New Zealand derby later on Saturday.


Alternatively, as long as the Hurricanes win and the Blues fail to do the same, then the men from the nation’s capital will end the season one point ahead of their north island rivals. There’s plenty on the line in round 15.

Former All Black Mils Muliaina was quite confident in saying the Hurricanes will get the better of the Highlanders this weekend. The Canes have added Asafo Aumua, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Salesi Rayasi to an already star-studded First XV.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think so. No way guys,” Muliaina said on Stan Sports’ The Call Up. “The Hurricanes are too good.


“I saw a different side to them last week. A real physical battle against the Chiefs… they don’t mind getting through the middle of the park and having guys like (Xavier) Numia, who’s been in sensational form, his ability to (impress at) the scrum and the set piece.

“They’ve just got a really nice balance.

“Welcome back (Asafo) Aumua. Before he got injured in Fiji, he’s been one of their top performers. He comes back into the fold.

“Du’Plessis Kirifi back into it, (and so is) Salesi Rayasi. This has been a real positive for the Hurricanes, the fact they’ve been able to rotate guys in and out but still… they’ve got very, very good experience.

“The key thing for them is they go out there and momentum is going to be the big one leading into the quarter-finals.”


Earlier this season, former Wallaby Morgan Turinui described the Hurricanes as a “European-style” team before playing the Highlanders in Dunedin. Only three players retained their spot in the starting side from the week before.

Coach Laidlaw made a habit of making mass changes to the Hurricanes’ team, and for the most part it’s worked out for them. The full depth of the squad has been to the test and they’ve passed many of these challenges with flying colours.

Their only two losses of the season have come against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra and a thriller against the Blues at Auckland’s Eden Park. Other than that, the Hurricanes’ squad has been nothing short of sensational.


Last 5 Meetings

Average Points scored
First try wins
Home team wins

More than 60 days after making that initial Hurricanes comment, Turinui has once again spoke about the “interesting little concept” the Hurricanes have adopted this season.

“It’s an interesting little concept from the Hurricanes this year, we’ve discussed it almost every Wednesday: lots of changes in the Hurricanes.

“They were too good last week for the Chiefs and now they bring in Aumua, Kirifi and Rayasi into a team that is already good enough to beat the Chiefs.

“They’ll probably just keep on winning. They’ve been super impressive this year. I thought that (win over the Chiefs) was probably their best performance in the manner in which they closed that game out.

“I think they can be too good for a Highlanders team… too much firepower with the Canes.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Turlough 1 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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