Preview: Rebels v Hurricanes

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Friday, May 9, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday, May 9, 2014, 21:40pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 2, Rebels 1, Hurricanes 1

Last time: Rebels 24-66 Hurricanes (May 9, 2012)

Squad update: The Rebels have made just two changes for this match, promoting powerful hooker Pat Leafa to the starting line-up, but otherwise this is a settled home team that will be disappointed with their loss to the Sharks last week, their fourth bonus point defeat of 2014.

The Hurricanes have brought in Reggie Goodes and Ardie Savea into their starting team, which might take a little bit of power away from the pack but it will ensure that have a mobile set of forwards to keep their fast breakdown game constant. A backline in form will look to keep up the momentum that has seen them dominate Super Rugby’s attacking metrics so far.

Form: The Rebels might have lost three of their last four, but losses to the Highlanders (by three), Chiefs (six) and Sharks (six) continue to show the starch in this team, and the hosts will back a vastly improved defensive system to hold their opponent’s attack at arm’s length.

A brilliant mid-season means that the Hurricanes loss to the Waratahs wasn’t a major strike to the nerves, five wins from their six before that has them well within the title mix, and their nuclear strike battle with NSW proved that even in a losing effort the team can fire plenty of telling blows.

Key Players: Scott Higginbotham may be the captain, but he is being well supported by an unheralded pack that by most numbers is among the better performers in Super Rugby, but Luke Burgess is giving mongrel to the playing axis while Tamati Ellison is proving to be among the team’s marquee signings.

The Hurricanes entire forward unit can take a bow putting in a series of performances of late that didn’t even drop during their loss to NSW, indeed they boasted a perfect set piece against the Waratahs. Alapati Leiua has proven to be a glorious foil to Conrad Smith, not along among other backline All Blacks beginning to ease into proceedings, while Beauden Barrett is the form first five in the country.

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.

Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Tom Kingston, 23 Angus Roberts.

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush/Blade Thomson, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.

Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, 19 Blade Thomson/Brad Shields, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.

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