Come Saturday night we will have a first time winner of the Super Rugby title, which given some of their past players is difficult to believe for the Hurricanes. No doubt they will have last year in the back of their mind where they were clearly the top team after the regular season and came up just short against the Highlanders in the final. The Lions will have to overcome the trip across the Indian Ocean, the Cake Tin and the fact they have only had one win in ten previous meetings with the Hurricanes.
Both teams had 11 wins and 4 losses during the regular season and had reasonably comfortable quarter final and semi-final wins. The Hurricanes accounted for the Sharks (41-nil) and the Chiefs (25-9) without conceding a try. The Lions have defeated the Crusaders 42-25 and the Highlanders 42-30.
The Hurricanes are on track for their eight consecutive victory which would be a club record.
Hurricanes captain Dane Coles (rib) has been bracketed with Ricky Riccitelli at starting hooker whilst on the bench Callum Gibbins (achilles)has been bracketed with Tony Lamborn and Reggie Goodes (concussion) has been bracketed with Mike Kainga.
Lions captain and number 8 Warren Whiteley (calf) has been named in the starting XV. Whiteley has only played 53 minutes since obtaining an injury during the June test series against Ireland.
Key Match Ups
Fly-halves: Beauden Barrett v Elton Jantjies: Both players were adjudged GAGR’s man of the match in last week’s semi-finals and have creativity oozing out of their body. Expect to see tries scored or set up by these players from long range runs from inside their own half, chip kicks or intercepts and this was just what happened last week. The match could even be decided by the pair’s goalkicking with Barrett (71) and Jantjies (70) being the two leading goalkickers this Super Rugby season.
Number 8: Victor Vito v Warren Whiteley: Vito was at his dynamic best last week, scoring a try and beating two defenders from 9 carries and making 7 tackles. Whiteley will be short of a gallop so it will be interesting to see if he has enough match fitness to nullify Vito’s influence on the game and lead his team from the front.
Players to Watch
Ardie Savea (7) Hurricanes: Savea was at his devastating best last week. He won 3 turnovers taking his season tally to 24 the second most of any player in the competition behind David Pocock (25). Savea laid 16 tackles last week without a missed tackle which took him to number one on the season tackle list with 192. When Savea tackles someone he stays hit. For good measure Savea, who is quick, even threw in a line break from his own 22 and a deft kick on the end of the break.
Jaco Kriel (6) Lions: Kriel was brilliant in the semi-final scored a try on the wing from a cross field kick from Jantjies, made a try saving tackle on Matt Faddes bundling him into touch, won two turnovers and is equal third for the season for defenders beaten (55).
Bench: Both the Hurricanes (21 tries scored) and the Lions (23 tries scored) have their highest scoring quarter in the fourth quarter of the match. The big difference when the two benches come on could be the defence with the Lions conceding 20 tries in the last quarter of matches whereas the Hurricanes have only conceded five tries during that same period.
Both teams have plenty of creativity and play attacking rugby with the ability to score from anywhere on the field and that hasn’t changed in the finals. The Lions (25) and the Hurricanes (23) have scored the second and third most tries from possessions originating in their own half this season. The Hurricanes’ defence does not suffer from their attacking credentials with the best defence conceding just 19 points per game. Both fly-halves will be heavily involved bringing their outside backs into play while there will be plenty of carries and tackles from the likes of Vito, Ardie Savea, Kriel and Mostert.
The game should be very entertaining given the styles of both sides. Given the match is at the Cake Tin, the Hurricanes miserly defence and the Hurricanes will draw inspiration not only from last year’s final loss but also from the deaths of club legends Jerry Collins and Jonah Lomu in the last 14 months I can’t go past the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes by 6
15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (vc), 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (c)/Ricky Riccitelli 1. Loni Uhila Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Michael Kainga/Reggie Goodes, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins/Tony Lamborn, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith. Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco van der Walt
Match: Hurricanes v Lions @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Date: Saturday 6 August 2016
Kick-off: 19:35 local 17:35 AEST 09:35 SAST
Referee: Glen Jackson
AR1: Angus Gardner
AR2: Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Ben Skeen
Statistics courtesy of Opta Sports