Preview - Hurricanes v Waratahs - Green and Gold Rugby
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Preview – Hurricanes v Waratahs

Preview – Hurricanes v Waratahs

The Waratahs, are still licking their wounds after a five-day turn-around from a mauling by the in-form Crusaders.

They must be cursing the draw as they fly into Wellington for their do-or-die Round 7 match against yet another in-form Kiwi side, the Hurricanes. Why couldn’t they have drawn the Sunwolves this week? Oh well, they have a bye in Round 8.

The Teams

The big news is that flyhalf Bernard Foley is fit to play and winger Taqele Naiyarvoro starts for the first time in the season, replacing Reece Robinson. In some late news, Rob Horne, who was slotted to return, has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, which means that Israel Folau remains at outside centre. Cameron Clark slides over to the left wing as Bryce Hegarty comes into the starting side at fullback. Andrew Kellaway plays from the bench.

In the forwards loose head prop Paddy Ryan replaces Tom Robertson who has concussion issues, and Michael Wells wears the 8 jersey replacing Jed Holloway, who has not regained last year’s form yet.

It is difficult to find much to be enthusiastic about when looking at the Tahs’ form this season. They have shuffled and reshuffled the deck, cut the cards five or more times, hinted they had an ace up their sleeve but failed to do more than bluff so far.

Michael Hooper and Tolu Latu are no doubt nursing sore backs from having carried much of the rest of the squad in 2017.

It is time for the others to stand up and show why they have Super Rugby contracts. 100% efforts from first whistle to last have been absent thus far. They have rarely found the spark that will ignite the fire, and a repeat on Friday night will be a major setback to what little hope of a finals’ berth remains.

Hooper leads the way

Tahs will need another supreme effort from the irrepressible Michael Hooper

Although they have rested some of their gun players in recognition of the Waratahs’ poor form, they still have danger all over the park: the Barretts, under-rated Matt Proctor, Laumape and the returning Cory Jane will relish the service of TJ Perenara as he barks orders to the workhorses Fatialofa, Shields and Gibbins.

The Canes’ forward pack is mobile, hardworking and will not take prisoners against the Tahs. Busy forwards Ricky Riccitelli and the versatile Chris Eves will be chomping at the bit to show their wares.

The Tahs will be grateful that neither of the Saveas have been named, nor All Black hooker Dan Coles, but there is danger on the Hurricanes bench, with the impressive Vaea Fifita waiting for another chance.

Vaea Fifita – impressive substitute

Why should I bother?

There will be some exciting tries scored unless the rain that is building on the North Island continues to bucket down.

The Canes play a brand of rugby that excites the soul and reminds me why I love the Game They Play in Heaven – and who knows – the Waratahs could remember what they did in the second half in Melbourne two weeks ago.

Can Taqele Naiyaravoro do this again in 2017?

Key match ups

The wingers
There’s no other way to view it – the inclusion of the moving mountain Taqele Naiyaravoro surely indicates that the Tahs are going all-in. Big T is virtually impossible to pull down when he has a bit of space to gather speed and he will certainly attract enough attention from the Hurricanes outside backs to possibly create a bit of space elsewhere. I imagine wingers Jane and Goosen will be drawing straws to see who will be marking him.

Bernard Foley – his return should make a difference

The no. 10s
The return of Bernard Foley should bring more flair to the attack and hopefully he will conjure some space for Folau and Naiyaravoro.

Beauden Barrett’s pace, vision and clever kicking game will keep the Waratahs awake on Thursday night and he must be thinking that the inclusion of Naiyaravoro might be an opportunity for a kick in behind.

The forwards
Promising young Waratah Ned Hanigan gets another chance to put his name into Wallaby Coach Michael Cheika’s little black book and there would be few who would begrudge him being included in at least the early national squads. He is a wholehearted forward who plays with ferocity and we can certainly use a few more of his ilk.

His direct contest with the tough Brad Shields, who will be playing in his 70th Super Rugby game, will be a good measure of his progress.

The battle at set piece should be relatively even with the Canes having an edge at lineout time. The Tahs would be foolish to allow them many opportunities to throw in the ball.

Ned Hanigan – his ferocity will be needed

The game plans

The Hurricanes just have to do what they have been doing the whole session.

The Waratahs must reduce the Canes’ ball carrying opportunities. Any kicks must either sail well over the sideline or be contestable to the max. Woe betide the Tahs if they choose to kick the ball back to the Canes aimlessly – nothing good comes from that.

Transitions from attack to defence must be quicker because the Canes move the ball rapidly from turnovers. Perenara’s ability to find unfocused defenders should be ringing alarm bells for Coach Gibson, and Beauden Barrett’s deft chip kicks should be in the front of the mind for the Tahs’ defenders.

When they have the ball, the Tahs must find a way to penetrate but that seems to have evaded them for most of the season. Jake Gordon’s try against the Crusaders was a shining light of how to utilise a runner from depth and we all know what Folau can do in space. Will Gibson’s roll of the dice in starting Naiyaravoro pay off?

Pigs may not be able to fly but the Tahs must muscle up in the physical aspects of the game. Starving the Canes of possession is paramount as is making their tackles – and being in the the right place to make them in the first place.  A high scoring match will almost certainly see the Tahs on the wrong side of the scoreline.


There is no evidence that the Tahs can execute the above plan against the Super Rugby Champions unless the home team has a shocker and the resting of key players has some effect.

Oh, and the Waratahs play out of their skins.

Hurricanes by 15

Beauden Barrett – master first-five for the Hurricanes


1. Ben May
2. Ricky Riccitelli
3. Jeffery To’omaga-Allen
4. Mark Abbott
5. Michael Fatialofa
6. Brad Shields
7. Callum Gibbins
8. Reed Prinsep
9. TJ Perenara
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Wes Goosen
12. Ngani Laumape
13. Matt Proctor
14. Cory Jane
15. Jordie Barrett

16. Leni Apisai
17. Chris Eves
18. Mike Kainga
19. Vaea Fifita
20. Toa Halafihi
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
22. Otere Black
23. Vince Aso


1. Paddy Ryan
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. Will Skelton
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cameron Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Israel Folau
14. Taqele Naiyaravoro
15. Bryce Hegarty

16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Sam Needs
18. David Lolohea
19. Dave McDuling
20. Jed Holloway
21. Nick Phipps
22. Irae Simone
23. Andrew Kellaway

Match Details

Date: Friday, 7 April 2017

Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Kick-off: 19.35 local, 17:35 AEST

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (RSA)

Assistant referees:
Brendon Pickerill (NZ), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)

TMO: Glenn Newman (NZ)

  • Jason

    Hurricanes by 15, that’s very optimistic, Hurricanes by no less than 20.

    • Lee Grant

      Nothing wrong with a bit of hope I always say.

      Good to see Foley back – and who knows what Big T can do on his day?

      I don’t see too many more straws to grab at though.

      • Die Hard

        I wouldn’t be hoping for more than serviceable from Foley back too soon. Many are taking six weeks for what he copped. He was back too soon last fortnight and even if pain free now cannot have trained well.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I’m always nervous as for years I’ve seen the Canes throw games away they should win. The Tahs will be much better with Folau at the back, Foley back and Big T on the wing and I think that resting Julian Savea is a risk.
    I think a win by 15 is probably correct

    • Lee Grant

      Yeah, pity. It would have been a clash of the titans.

    • Huw Tindall

      Only issue is Hegarty is at 15…Folau at 13.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Just noticed. I heard or read somewhere he was going back to 15. Well I think that weakens the team further. I don’t rate him as that much of a 13 tbh

        • Lee Grant

          The team changes (for Horne being injured) came through after 2bluesfan wrote the piece and it was published.

          You probably read the team when it came out – or maybe read the original version of this blog. Folau was originally selected at fullback.

    • Tomthusiasm

      Tahs are our bogey team, would’ve loved Ardie to be fit for this one as well!

  • Huw Tindall

    Second last sentence says it all: “PREDICTION – There is no evidence that the Tahs can execute the above plan against the Super Rugby Champions unless the home team has a shocker and the resting of key players has some effect.”

    If we don’t have the troops to play what we suspect is a competitive game plan against the Hurricanes we are stuffed from the get go. We don’t have the kicking game to play territory and reduce their counter attack. We don’t have the forwards to out muscle them at the breakdown and disrupt the ball to the backline. I’d give my left nut for someone like Palu or Jackpot putting a bone cruncher on TJ or Beauden. Shake their confidence. Make them rush their passes etc.

    And what is Hegarty doing at fullback? Not a notable kicking game, not notable under the nigh ball, not a notable defender, running game is OK. Kellaway was playing cracking rugby at 15 till he was shuffled to the wing then dropped to the bench this week.

    • Timbuktu

      Perhaps Gibson has decided to rest one of our players for once? Kellaway has been great, but he is still early on in his career. Although I do agree, Hegarty is not going to offer much from the back…

      • Huw Tindall

        Yeah maybe the case and especially with a 5 day turnaround but the Tahs can’t really afford to rest anyone if they want to aim for the top of the table. The Canes are leaving out 5 or so front line players seemingly because they are playing an easy beat team. Tahs should chuck the kitchen sink at them…almost like the Lions playing the B-Team against the Jaguares last year, losing, and then missing out on a home final!

        • Timbuktu

          I dont think any Australian team can ever afford to rest any players at any point lately .. but it still needs to happen at some point.
          The Tahs have a bye next week though! So, I agree, all hands on deck!

      • Bay35Pablo

        Good enough is old enough. Gibbo picked Mason not Hegarty or Horwitz.
        Kell away should start. One of few shining lights in side. Folau does not work at 13. Not enough space.

      • Braveheart81

        Kellaway was good in South Africa but hasn’t been since. I think he has been benched for a lack of effort against the Crusaders. There was one moment in the first half where a kick was put down the left edge of the field and Kellaway should have been the lead chaser. He jogged slowly after it and then when the play turned back towards the other side of the field he slowed to a walk as the Crusaders scored.

        I think Gibson is trying to put a rocket up him that he needs to be fitter and work harder.

        • AB

          Interesting observation as I thought he had been one of the shining lights – always looks dangerous in attack and has great rugby instincts – I would like to see him closer to the ball. I have been to all the home games and have been baffled all season by the lack of effort in the kick chase – all the backs just stroll down field giving the NZ sides more time to organise counter attack and then wonder why they are getting hammered.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Looks like Gibson has taken on board the Cheika model of playing people out of position. I must admit I don’t understand it. Sure you do it to cover an accident in a game but someone proves himself in one position enough to catch your eye, so you play him somewhere else and he doesn’t perform as well. Who’d have thought!

      • Bernie Chan

        Maybe Gibson agrees with Cheika…a fullback who can kick and tackle is unnecessary. Playing “out of position” highlights one’s versatility…Must have rugby savants doing the thinking at the TAHs…

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Or shows desperation from the coach

  • Kokonutcreme

    If the Tahs miss 47 tackles again this week that 15 points margin to the Hurricanes will be very conservative. The Tahs defensive structure from lineouts was exposed by the Crusaders and the Hurricanes coaching staff will have taken note.

  • Tommy Brady

    For reasons that range from intriguing to anxious to sobering, I view this as a “must watch” game for any diehard Waratahs fan. The lead up has not been good, the preparation not ideal, the occasion threatens to be challenging and expectation has been set low. They are the perfect circumstances with which to guage the mental strength and fortitude of a side. A strong, united, prideful group will come together, face up to the challenge, work hard for each other and deliver a result that can shape the rest of their season. A weak, dysfunctional, selfish group will lack competitive fight, roll over under pressure and ultimately capitulate. An outcome that damages morale and potentially destroy a season.

    Friday night will illustrate who is worthy of the jersey and who should be making ulterior plans for 2018. Waratah’s fans should be playing close attention. Who is genuinely competing for your cause and who is masquerading as an imposter? Friday night will present no middle ground.

    • Die Hard

      Given the lack of ability to follow the coaches instructions even immediately after the half time rant I would expect more of the same.

      I am expecting that they were within seven points at some stage, that they train well and that the ref screws them over some instance or other. I also expect they will talk a bit about how they might go all the way again this year.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Well said

    • Huw Tindall

      I hope Gibson puts this on the change room wall

    • Anon

      I think you’re right to a certain extent, however what bothers me is that no one seems to be pointing out the obvious flaws in the hurricanes: they can’t defend confident ball runners. Luckily enough we have a billion and a half of them.

      Missed tackles last week were mostly in the middle of the park, something Rob Horne’s inclusion should really clear up. We’re a much better outfit than the results have shown and traditionally we do alright against the hurricanes.

      If we can show some discipline there is no reason we can’t put a few points on the board here.

  • Brumby Runner

    Really good to see Marius van der Westhuizen getting good games lately. Has been one of the shining lights as far as refs are concerned for a couple of years without getting much time in the middle in SR. But his last two games have been exceptional in that I don’t think there was a single criticism in either of the match discussions about his performance.

    Incidentally, I know there were no cards in the Brumbies’ game two weeks ago, and I don’t remember any in his game last week. Seems to have more control than any other ref and make fewer glaring mistakes.

  • mikado

    I hope the Waratahs punish the Hurricanes for resting players.

    • Tomthusiasm

      They’ve only rested Julian Savea, who has had a heavy workload and has to be rested at some point, due to All Black protocol. Everyone else is either unavailable due to injury or on the bench.

      • mikado

        Ok thanks, less dismissive than I had thought.

      • Huw Tindall

        They rested both their wingers and Vince Aso (the comps leading try scorer!) along with Ardie Savea out with an injured calf and Dan Coles out till next week they are down some big names. Not that it will make much difference :(

        • Tomthusiasm

          Aso’s on the bench, but probably should’ve started him over Jane, who hasn’t played at all this year and might be a bit rusty. It’s definitely a leg up for the Tahs, they need to channel whatever they did in 2015 to beat the Canes in Wellington.

  • Adrian

    Late change with Horne out, definitely weakens defence.

    I think Gibson originally selected for better defence and more accurate kickers, even if short kickers.

    Reese Robinson dropped because of bad defensive display and chasing last week, and Kelleway demoted.

    Hegarty is normally a full back, and can do accurate kicks for Folau, or at least he did in first couple of games.

    I would have put Phipps on Clarke’s wing for his defence and cover defence, then switched him to 1/2 with 20 to go

  • Fatflanker

    I wouldn’t be too confident that the Tahs would actually knock over the Sunwolves at the moment, TBH. Tough times.

  • Brian Smith

    It’s hard to understand why Andrew Kellaway is on the bench and Bryce Hegarty starts at 15. The Canes will play wide from set piece to target Hegarty defending the open-side winger (shutting the gate). They’ll be looking for speed and physicality mismatches on the edge. It’s a good thing Julian “The Bus” Savea is not playing…either way you can expect the Canes to target Hegarty. Nathan Grey may need a Plan B if this happens.

  • Hoss

    After a big pre-season for me, a lot of soul searching where i could improve my support for the Tah’s and The Boys in Gold, i feel jaded and uninspired and its only half way through the season. I mean i really dug in and worked hard on set piece, sit,pour,ice – engage. I introduced new skills training so i can operate the remote ambidextrously (like Nick Phipps, could never go left to right), i researched head-knocks – the amount of times over the years i have slapped myself in the head and cried ‘Whiskey tango Foxtrot are they doing out there’ (Tah’s fans will understand) i had legitimate concussion concerns.

    Here i am at round 7-8 (i lost count and my care level is fading fast) and if i wanted to see an entirely limp, listless, flacid display i would get a job at a nursing home assisting gentile octogenarians bath – not pay $140 month to Fuxtel and see my anxiety levels go through the roof.

    I want to believe, i really do, but i already have half an eye on when the Lions tour the Shaky Isles – at least i will see someone push the Kiwi’s, cause it sure as shit wont come form our side of the ditch

    Maybe i should just start calling Cheik Punxsutawney Phil – cause its Groundhog Day for Aussie Rugby fans – AGAIN.

  • Bernie Chan

    Jeez…that was an ugly opening half from the TAHs. Surely there must be doubts about Nathan Grey’s coaching of the defence? He also is the the defence coach for our Wallas they were awful in 2016…

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