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PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Highlanders

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images


ROUND 14:
Hurricanes v Highlanders, Friday 27 May, 7.35pm, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

TALE OF THE TAPE
Just one point separates the Hurricanes and Highlanders in the New Zealand conference. The winner of this clash will move level with the Crusaders and Chiefs at the top of the ladder and leave a big gap back to the fourth placed side. The Highlanders have recent form on their sides with three vital wins over the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders. The Hurricanes have been shaky over recent weeks with losses to the Chiefs and Sharks.
HURRICANES FIVE RETURN
The Hurricanes are bolstered by the return of the five players who were stood down for the victory over the Reds. Out wide, Julian Savea and Cory Jane slot into the wing positions, while Victor Vito and Ardie Savea come into the loose forwards and prop Chris Eves returns to the bench. Not only do the returning players add star power but also an added motivation to perform after missing a team curfew in South Africa.

LUKE v VICTOR
Luke Whitelock had the game of his life in the Highlanders stunning round 12 victory over the Crusaders and will be looking to repeat it when he squares off with Victor Vito in the number eight jersey. Discarded from the Crusaders, Whitelock proved a point against his former team with crushing defence and strong running in an impressive all round display. Vito also has a point to prove after missing the Reds clash and will be looking to outdo anything that Whitelock brings to the match. 

BENCH POWER
In what is expected to be a brutal clash, the reserves bench will play a big role. The Hurricanes boast impact off the bench in Vaea Fifita who has proven to be one of the most devastating ball runners in Super Rugby. The Highlanders counter Fifita with their own powerhouse ball runner in Liam Squire. In the backs, the explosive Ngani Laumape could be a danger in the closing stages of the match for the Hurricanes while the Highlanders may call on Marty Banks – the man who slotted a vital drop goal in the 2015 final.

BE THERE
It is the match that Hurricanes fans have been waiting 10 long months for – the chance to avenge last year’s Super Rugby final loss. A bumper crowd is expected for this clash which will have huge implications on the play-offs race. Get your TICKETS HERE to experience the action!

TEAMS:

HURRICANES: 15 James Marshall14 Cory Jane 13 Matt Proctor 12 Vince Aso 11 Julian Savea 10 Beauden Barrett 9 TJ Perenara (vc) 8 Victor Vito 7 Ardie Savea 6 Brad Shields 5 Michael Fatialofa 4 Blade Thomson 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen 2 Dane Coles (c) 1 Reggie Goodes
Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, Lonu Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Ngani Laumape, Jason Woodward

HIGHLANDERS:
15: Ben Smith 14: Waisake Naholo 13: Matt Faddes 12: Malakai Fekitoa 11: Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Luke Whitelock 7: Dan Pryor 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Tom Franklin 4: Alex Ainley 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon 1: Daniel Lienert-Brown
Reserves: 16: Greg Pleasents-Tate 17: Aki Seiuli 18: Siosiua Halankonuka 19: Mark Reddish 20: Liam Squire 21: Fumiaki Tanaka 22: Marty Banks 23: Teihorangi Walden