Hurricanes v Chiefs Preview

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In a straight swap off the bench at halfback, Weepu returns in place of Alby Mathewson for his first start since round seven against the Sharks.

One other confirmed change to the Hurricanes team that beat the Blues 45-27 in Wellington last Friday night sees Cory Jane return from a calf injury to fullback.

Jane comes in at the back for the versatile Tamati Ellison, who is bracketed with Zac Guildford on the right wing pending a late fitness test on the head knock he sustained against the Blues.

Also on the pine, Faifili Levave comes back into the playing 22 for Api Naikatini as reserve loose forward cover.

The Hurricanes lead a crowded Super 14 points table on 39 points with two rounds to play, with the Chiefs and the Bulls tied on 37 points and a group of five teams below them still with a mathematical chance of making the semi-finals.

The Hurricanes have won eight from 11 matches so far, while the Chiefs have won seven. Since returning from South Africa, the Hurricanes have won four consecutive matches starting with their one-point win against the Force on their way home and rounded out by resounding home victories at Westpac Stadium against the Stormers, Brumbies and Blues.

The Chiefs lost their first three matches, but bounced back to win five in a row including big wins over the Blues and Reds in rounds four and five.

Saturday's game pits the two leading attacking sides of this year's Super 14 against each other.

During last Friday's win over Blues, the Hurricanes became the first team to pass 300 points in this year's Super 14, reaching 335 points by the end of the match. The Chiefs also passed this mark in their win over the Stormers, reaching 312 points. The next most prolific attacking side are the third placed Bulls with 282 points.

The Hurricanes have scored 43 tries and earned 5 bonus points for scoring four tries or more and the Chiefs have scored 38 tries and also scored five tries or more on five occasions. The Blues (6 times), Force (5) and Stormers (6) have also run in four tries or more in at least five games,  but they are all in the second half of the points table.

The Hurricanes' best season in terms of wins in the round-robin stage was 2006 with 10 victories from 13 and they also scored 327 points, while their most prolific points scoring season was 1997 when they scored 416 points in 11 regular season games.

A win for the Hurricanes would ensure them a semi-final spot with one round in hand, which would be their sixth top four finish in the 14-year history of the Super 12/14 and their fifth in seven seasons under the guidance of head coach Colin Cooper. The Chiefs have previously made the semi-finals once, in 2004.

This match also promises several mouth watering individual match-ups across the park, with both teams led by sets of dynamic loose forwards, explosive backlines and try scoring wingers.

The Hurricanes will be gunning for their fourth straight win over the Chiefs on Saturday, having beaten them 28-16 in 2005, 35-10 in 2006, 39-32 in 2007 and 39-19 last year.

The Hurricanes scored a record six tries to three victory in their clash in Wellington last season, running in four tries in the first half and then holding off a Chiefs comeback after halftime.

Former Hurricanes and Chiefs lock Paul Tito scored the match-winning try in the 2007 win for the Hurricanes in Hamilton, scooting 30 metres to cross in the corner.

In 2006 Andrew Hore became a happy hooker when he scored a hat trick of tries against the Chiefs as the Hurricanes won 35-10 in Wellington.

Overall, Saturday's match will be the 14th encounter in Super Rugby between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. The Hurricanes have won eight and the Chiefs five of their previous 13 clashes.

The Hurricanes and the Chiefs have previously met five times in Hamilton with the Hurricanes winning three, and the Chiefs two of these encounters.

The two teams have played each in five different cities across the North Island, including once each in Rotorua, Palmerston North and New Plymouth, five times in Hamilton and five times in Wellington (all at Westpac Stadium).

The first five Hurricanes v Chiefs Super 12 clashes all produced knife-edge results, with margins of victory to either side of 8,5,3,3 and 5 five respectively.

The next eight encounters were generally more high scoring. 2007's Hurricanes' 39-32 victory was the closest winning margin since 2000 when the Hurricanes won 24-19 in Hamilton. The Chiefs' 51-27 win in 2001 is the highest winning margin between the sides. This was also the first instance of a New Zealand team scoring 50 points against the Hurricanes.

In 13 previous games, the Hurricanes have scored 327 points against the Chiefs and the Chiefs have totalled 305 against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have scored 41 tries in Super Rugby against the Chiefs, and  have earned four-try bonus points five  times. 

The Hurricanes team to meet the Chiefs is as follows:

1. John Schwalger

2. Andrew Hore

3. Neemia Tialata

4. Jeremy Thrush

5. Jason Eaton

6. Victor Vito

7. Scott Waldrom

8. Rodney So'oialo (c)

9. Piri Weepu

10. Willie Ripia

11. David Smith

12. Ma'a Nonu

13. Conrad Smith

14. Tamati Ellison/Zac Guildford 

15. Cory Jane


16. Ged Robinson

17. Jacob Ellison

18. Bryn Evans

19. Faifili Levave

20. Alby Mathewson

21. Jason Kawau

22. Zac Guildford/Robert Fruean


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