Preview: Hurricanes v Chiefs

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Saturday, May 24, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday, May 24, 2014, 19:35pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 22, Hurricanes 11, Chiefs 10, Drawn 1

Last played: Hurricanes 22-34 Chiefs (June 28, 2013)

Squad update: The Hurricanes celebrate Jack Lam, last year’s winner of the best Samoan Player in the world, recording his 50th Super Rugby cap, while All Blacks hooker Dane Coles returns to the side. The recovery of Beauden Barrett, who was initially in a little doubt with a hip injury, will be crucial for this is the time when team’s navigators need to run proceedings with authority.

The champion’s most notable inclusions have been on the bench, with star playmaker Aaron Cruden recovering from his thumb injury, and will be alongside Kane Thompson who enters the match day squad. Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Charlie Ngatai return to the starting team to bolster up a midfield that will be better for the inclusion of the power runners.

Form: The Hurricanes, unlike many teams above them, have only four matches remaining so they must take this chance, and with two of those fixtures being against the champions this game will be season defining. Despite promising form throughout the year, two losses from their last three has the Wellington based franchise’s hopes hanging by a thread.

The Chiefs have recovered from mid-season wobbles and have now won their last two, scoring ten tries in the process. A timely bye has given the team a fresh lease on life with injuries easing – the return of Aaron Cruden will be notable, while a week’s rest for the hard working forward pack will be appreciated.

Key men: The Hurricanes attacking prowess is well known but it will be the efforts of the forward pack that will make the difference, while the two-point loss to the Highlanders last week interrupted what was a four match winning streak at home for the men from Wellington. The physical efforts of Victor Vito and co will be required here.

The Chiefs, with just one win on the road so far this season, will need their credentialed back row to set the tone, Liam Messam, Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer are as good a trio as any in Super Rugby but the two-time winners haven’t been able to enforce themselves on team’s up front. While both sides have been a bit creaky at the set piece, the Chiefs renowned scrapping game will need to come to the fore at Westpac Stadium.

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 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon/Reggie Goodes, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggies Goodes/Mike Kainga, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor/James Marshall.

Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Pauliasi Manu.

Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Tom Marshall.