‘We want to win it’: Why the next two games are ‘massive’ for the Hurricanes
With the end of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season in sight, there are about five teams battling it for home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
If you crunch the numbers, you’ll see that five doesn’t fit into four – by the time the finals roll around, one of these competitive teams will need to keep their season alive away from home.
The Hurricanes, who currently sit outside the top four in fifth place, will do whatever they can to ensure that they surge up the ladder in rounds 14 and 15.
Following their 23-12 loss to the ladder-leading Chiefs in torrential conditions at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium last weekend, the Canes are preparing for two season-defining fixtures.
The team from the capital will travel north to Auckland this week ahead of their clash with the fourth-placed Blues on Saturday evening.
Then, exactly one week on, the Hurricanes will host the second-placed Crusaders at Wellington’s Sky Stadium in the final round of the regular season.
If this was English Football – or if you’re familiar with the following phrase, you’ll understand the significance of these games – these New Zealand derbies would be considered six-pointers.
It doesn’t get much bigger in the regular season.
With the ladder as tight as it currently is, Hurricanes flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi said the next two games are “massive” for the Hurricanes as they look to clinch finals footy in Wellington.
“It’s huge for us,” Kirifi told RugbyPass. “The Chiefs are clear and I can’t really see anyone catching them but for the next four or five teams, we’re all four, five, six points apart.
“For us to pick up… 10 points, nine points, eight points from the last two games would just be massive in terms of what the finals look like for us and easing a little bit of stress.
“If we’re down the ladder we’re going to have to travel for three weeks in a row if we want to win the whole thing.
“Massive last two games for us, and we knew we were going to be in this situation at the start of the season. We knew that it was going to be a tough run home for us.
“I guess that’s why we’ve worked so hard to pick up points against every other team.”
But, as cliché as it might seem, the Hurricanes will surely be taking it one game at a time ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs.
While the excitement and anticipation for a blockbuster Hurricanes versus Crusaders clash in the final round is already starting to brew, the focus has to be on the Blues.
The Hurricanes started their season with two promising wins across the ditch, but were undone in round three by Beauden Barrett and co at Sky Stadium.
With a chance to win it at the death, the Canes fell painfully short of what would’ve been a crucial win for the team – instead, they fell to a 19-25 defeat.
But the past is the past, and that can’t be changed. March feels like an eternity ago now, and the Hurricanes will be eager to “rectify a few things” at Eden Park.
“Blues this week, it’s going to be a massive game up at Eden Park. They’re gong well as well, they’re probably in a similar position to us, they want to finish strongly,” he added.
“We’ll be looking to rectify a few of the things we didn’t quite nail last time we played them.
“Looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to a little bit of niggle that those boys have to offer. The boys love playing the Blues because we’re quite close with a few of them.
“They offer something different from a lot of other teams, they’re quite a razzley outfit and as a player you like to come up against those kind of things and see how you stack up.
“Hopefully we get the job done.”
After losing to the Blues in early March, the Hurricanes went on a four-game unbeaten streak ahead of their first meeting with the high flying Chiefs.
Returning to Wellington, the Canes raced out to a commanding led – but a Damian McKenzie masterclass helped the Hamilton-based franchise claw their way back.
The Hurricanes lost that fixture, and have since been beaten the Fijian Drua and the Chiefs for a second time.
“I would say as a group we’re happy, we’re not chuffed though.
“Those first two games, we dropped one against the Blues, which we had an opportunity to win on full time and we didn’t. That was really disappointing.
“The first game against the Chiefs, we were in control of that game and just through various reasons we let that one slop so again, a very disappointing end to that game.
“For the rest of the season, I think we’ve picked up points where we’ve needed to, bar the Drua game – which was ridiculously tough.
“Other than those various games, we’ve been going well, the coaches are doing an awesome job and creating good habits within the group.
“Us as leaders are doing a great job at leading by example through the year and setting high standards. We’ve got a great group, coaches, management and players.
“This is probably one of the most enjoyable years so far, not just because we’re winning, more so because we’re just so in sync with each other and hopefully it keeps going that way.
“We want to win it at the end of the year and if we don’t I know that we’re heading in the right direction as a group.”
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Retallick and whitelock still good enough to take on the best but they have to produce the quality several games in a row. Who do the Kiwis have after they and Scott b? At least the front row will be okay. Back row interesting coz Sam came and Ardie look sorta essential but can it work? Works better with brodies work rate but still.. what do you think nick. Can they get away without the backup locks?Go to comments
He’s probably right. The Boks are going to play like the Boks and that’s hard to shake but on saying that the Boks were done in Brighton and pressured by Japan in Japan. Dunno what tongas got in the front row but their loosies will be powerful and their back three very dangerous. Maybe Adam coleman at lock and sekope kepu up front?Go to comments