Preview: Hurricanes v Rebels
Thursday, March 26, 2015 James Mortimer Getty Images
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Played: 3, 2011-2014 (DNP 2013)
Hurricanes wins: 2
Rebels wins: 1
Hurricanes points: 116
Rebels points: 81
Last match: Hurricanes 25 Rebels 15, 09.05.14 in Melbourne
Squad update: While it is part of a pre-arranged agreement between All Blacks management and Investec Super Rugby coaches, the resting of some key Test players could come back to haunt the ‘Canes in a potential banana skin clash.
Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea and Ben Franks have all been rested, resulting in James Marshall, Matt Proctor and Ben May coming into the starting team.
Halfback TJ Perenara will run on for his 50th game, not long after the number nine made his debut for the Hurricanes against the Stormers in 2012.
Ardie Savea (finger) and Blade Thomson (concussion) have been ruled out.
The Rebels meanwhile celebrate a number of milestones.
Rebels centre Mitch Inman becomes the fifth player, and the first non-foundation Rebel, to reach 50 Caps for the Club, while Co-Captain Scott Higginbotham makes his 100th Investec Super Rugby appearance.
Foundation Rebel Laurie Weeks will also overtake former player Hugh Pyle as the most-capped player in the Club’s history, moving to 59 Rebels caps – while former Reds back rower Radike Samo has been named on the pine.
Form: The Hurricanes are the toast of the town and rightfully so after winning five from five, far and away their best ever start to an Investec Super Rugby campaign.
Defence and back court organisation have been the priority for the side, and while Coach Chris Boyd might coyly suggest attack has not been a major, the ‘Canes have never looked more menacing.
With a two competition point lead over the second placed Brumbies, the Hurricanes by points scored have the most efficient defence of the year, conceding just 70 in five games.
The Rebels solid start to the season came somewhat undone last week with a 16-20 loss to the Lions, which came off the Melbourne based side’s four point win over the Force in Perth and their now legendary 20-10 victory over the Crusaders in round one.
A side that prides themselves on aggression and ticker, they will present a tricky challenge for a Hurricanes team that will be wary of tripping up after such a wonderful start.
Key players: While there has been some talk of the resting of big game players, the side still boasts six capped All Blacks in their starting XV, led by the imposing figures of Ma’a Nonu and Jeremy Thrush.
Both players have been supremely physical at times, encapsulating an approach by the Hurricanes where their ability to muscle up has led to a remarkable defence which is the darling of Super Rugby.
James Broadhurst and Brad Shields have been unsung heroes in the tight who will need to put in the yards against a Rebels forward unit that is well drilled.
Weeks, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Scott Fuglistaller and Higginbotham combine for 221 Rebels caps and will provide enough resistance to ensure the home team do not have their way in the trenches.
In the back division one cannot ignore the presence of centre Tamati Ellison, and his duel with the two senior All Blacks midfielders will be one of many tantalising matchups in the open pastures.
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