Preview: Hurricanes v Highlanders

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Thursday, May 15, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday, May 16, 2014, 19:35pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 22, Hurricanes 12, Highlanders 10

Last time: Hurricanes 31-35 Highlanders (March 21, 2014)

Squad update: Injury to Dane Coles sees Motu Matu’u get a start at hooker, while Tim Bateman comes into the starting team for Alapati Leiua – the midfielder will come off the bench alongside the returning Brad Shields. Otherwise a team in form remains largely unchanged.

The visitors lose Chris King via suspension, forcing another change in the pack, with Kane Hames, Liam Coltman, Jarrad Hoeata and Shane Christie constituting the changes up front.

Form: Both sides are in the midst of mid-season surges, the hosts have won five of their last six fixtures, and have established a four match winning streak at home. With the most potent offence in the competition, being the only team to have scored more than 300 points, but they are tenth overall defensively with 28 tries conceded.

The Highlanders have since defeating the Hurricanes back in round six been victorious in five of their last seven games, keeping them in touching distance of the Super Rugby Finals Series. However they haven’t won in the capital since 2009, and their success in Durban earlier in the campaign remains their only road triumph.

#HURvHIG preview: Tickets: Stats: #SuperRugby— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 16, 2014

Key Players: Leiua’s absence from the run out team will be interesting considering that he has been among the form backs of the tournament, but the side has been travelling so well thanks to the efforts of the likes of Victor Vito and Jack Lam; the Hurricanes have been among the better set piece performers of late.

The Highlanders have been well served by a pack that has played with that distinctive southern scrapping style, but this is the period where the team has dropped off before – twice in the last three years they have lost their last three, so this is a crucial period for the tourists.

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Brad Shields, 22 Chris Smylie, 23 Alapati Leiua.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Jason Emery, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.

Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Aki Seuli, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Links for the teams | | @BluesRugbyTeam | | +BluesRugbyteam | | @ChiefsRugby | | | @crusadersrugby | | | @Highlanders | | @hurricanesrugby