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Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, 19.35 (06.35 GMT)


It is only week two and already the talk is of two teams in trouble. Can it really be? Both the Chiefs and the Hurricanes suffered losses in the opening week and that is the cause of the “must win” mentality that is prevailing in both camps.


They know that another defeat could be calamitous. “This is definitely a big game for both teams,” is how Chiefs coach Ian Foster summed it up.


But it is not just on the “scoreboard” where the teams have suffered setbacks. Losing teams are often dogged by injuries and this has certainly been the case for both this week.


The Chiefs lost one of their key play-makers, with Tasesa Lavea out for about six weeks with a knee injury. Add to this Richard Kahui and Keith Robinson still being sidelined and it is obvious they are not having the most fortuitous run.


The Hurricanes, already without a host of players – including their much vaunted loose forwards – on All Black conditioning duty, suffered more crippling blows this week.


Caretaker captain Conrad Smith is out this week with a damaged eye, with Tana Umaga assuming the captaincy role. Prop Tim Fairbrother is facing a lengthy lay-off with a dislocated shoulder and fellow front row forward John Schwalger (head knock) is also doubtful. Schwalger has been bracketed with Tony Penn for this match and a call will be made closer to kick-off.


Maybe the talk of “trouble” has as much to do with the form of the two teams as with the growing absenteeism of leading players.


But both teams were well below the standards they have set themselves in recent years and it is a case of who can pull themselves out of the early season slump the quickest.


Prediction: The Hurricanes looked lost without their All Blacks, especially the loose forwards. The Chiefs showed they still have a solid pack and that may be the key for them. We’ll go with a hard-fought Chiefs win. The Chiefs by 10 points.


Teams:


Chiefs: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Niva Ta’auso, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Roy Kinikinilau, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Steven Bates, 5 Jono Gibbes (c), 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Craig West
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Simms Davison, 18 Kristian Ormsby, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Dwayne Sweeney


Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Tana Umaga (c), 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Ma’a Nonu, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Luke Andrews, 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Tone Kopelani, 1 John Schwalger/Tony Penn
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Tony Penn/Anthony Perenise, 18 Bradley Mika, 19 Hayden Hopgood, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 David Smith, 22 Shannon Paku


Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Gary Wise (New Zealand)
Television match official: Chris Rooney (New Zealand)

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