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Final preview: Hurricanes v Lions

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Thursday, August 4, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Hurricanes v Lions, 7.35pm Saturday 6 August, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

TALE OF THE TAPE
It is fitting that the Hurricanes and Lions square off in the final after finishing the Super Rugby regular season in first and second place respectively. Both teams cruised through the play-offs with the Hurricanes taking out the Sharks and Chiefs while the Lions were impressive in putting on 42 points against both the Crusaders and Highlanders. The Hurricanes will be confident of breaking their Super Rugby title duck after defeating the Lions 50-17 in round 10 and having won nine out of their last 10 games against the Lions. The Lions proved in their round two victory over the Chiefs that they can win in New Zealand and will be desperate to return the Super Rugby title back to South Africa for the first time since the Bulls victory in 2010.

QUICK TAP: FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE SUPER RUGBY FINAL

BATTLE OF THE TENS
There may be no one else on the park that wield more influence on the outcome of the game than rival first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and Elton Jantjies. The classy pivots have hit peak form during the play offs with both being instrumental in their semi-final victories. Although rain is forecast for Saturday night, don’t expect either player to shy away from their attacking instinct.
INSPIRATIONAL WHITELEY
In a huge boost for the Lions, talismanic captain and number eight Warren Whiteley has overcome a potentially season ending shoulder injury to be named in the starting fifteen. It was first feared that the towering Whiteley would be out of all Super Rugby action after injuring his AC joint in the Springboks June Test series against Ireland. The inspirational captain will add steel to the pack and strong running ability. His head-to-head battle with Hurricanes number eight Victor Vito will be one to savour.

TON UP FOR VITO
A potential fairy tale beckons for number eight Victor Vito with Saturday’s final marking his 100th and final game for the Hurricanes. Although it would be the perfect finish to his Hurricanes career to bow out with a Super Rugby title, Vito is quick to say the team comes first: "The thing about this team is I think the culture has been building for the last few years."

POTENCY vs DEFENCE
The final could come down to a battle between the Lions potent attack and the Hurricanes resilient defence. The Lions have crossed for a Super Rugby record 81 tries this season and boast proven try-scorers in wing Courtnal Skosan and midfielders Lionel Mapoe and Johan Janse van Rensburg. Hurricanes Coach Chris Boyd has made no secret of the Hurricane’s desire to improve their defence this season and will be proud of their efforts to their keep opposition try-less in the first two rounds of the play offs. If the Hurricanes can maintain that level of defence for a third week in a row then the Super Rugby title will almost be in their grasp.
TEAMS
Hurricanes: 15: James Marshall 14: Cory Jane 13: Matt Proctor 12: Willis Halaholo 11: Jason Woodward 10: Beauden Barrett 9: TJ Perenare 8: Victor Vito 7: Ardie Savea 6: Brad Shields 5: Michael Fatialofa 4: Vaea Fifita 3: Ben May 2: Dane Coles/Ricky Riccitelli 1: Loni Uhila
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Reggie Goodes/Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Tony Lamborn, Jamison Gibson Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea.

Lions: 15: Andries Coetzee 14: Ruan Combrinck 13: Lionel Mapoe 12: Rohan Janse van Rensburg 11: Courtnall Skosan 10: Elton Jantjies 9: Francois de Klerk 8: Warren Whiteley 7: Warwick Tecklenburg 6: Jaco Kriel 5: Franco Mostert 4: Andries Ferreira 3: Julian Redelinghuys 2: Malcolm Marx 1: Dylan Smith
Reserves: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Lourens Erasmus, Ruan Ackermann, Ross Cronje, Howard Mnisi, Jaco van der Walt