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Hurricanes vs Blues draw could end SA’s hopes

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The Hurricanes could as early as Friday morning (SA time) crush the home semi-final hopes of the Stormers and Sharks when they meet the Blues in Auckland in a Super 14 match.


On a weekend of many permutations to reach the semi-finals and secure home semi-finals, the Brumbies and Western Force will play for pride and eighth position on the log in Friday’s other match.


Three points ahead of the two South African hopefuls on the log, a draw will be enough to see the Hurricanes end ahead of them by virtue of a vastly superior points differential.

 

A draw with a bonus point would be even worse for the South African sides.

However, the Hurricanes – who have won their last two encounters in Auckland – also have to worry about the Waratahs as the Sydney-based side are only one point behind them on the log.


To retain any hopes of a home semi, a win over the Blues is imperative, and their points difference compared to that of the Waratahs will see them end second, even without a bonus point try. It won’t be easy for the side from Wellington, though.


The Blues, currently sixth on the log, have aspirations of their own. A win by them will force the Stormers and the Sharks to at least win – and depending what the Waratahs do against the Reds on Saturday, the South African sides might need a bonus point just to qualify for the play-offs.


The Hurricanes are undoubted favourites. They have form, and a well-balanced side with three outstanding loose forwards enhanced by the availability of Jerry Collins to supplement Rodney So’oialo and Chris Masoe; a solid tight five despite the suspension of All Blacks Neemia Tialata; and a penetrative backline.


Ma’a Nonu is in the form of his life. Conrad Smith’s steadiness and class at outside centre and the retention of Willie Ripia at flyhalf to add quicker ball make this a dangerous side that could well win the title.


The Hurricanes are favourites – if only because of the Blues inconsistency – but will be wise not to underestimate a side that has scored the second most tries this season.


* In as far as a side can call Perth home with all but a few of their players from elsewhere, that is where the Force will play the Brumbies in an Australian derby that should produce some entertaining rugby.


The Canberra side will be smarting from their defeat against the Bulls last weekend, and will want a decent send-off for their coach Laurie Fischer.


He was scathing after last weekend’s loss, and with a leader of the caliber of Stirling Mortlock the Brumbies will want to atone for letting their title hopes slip in Pretoria.


Matt Giteau as usual could well hold the key to this match’s outcome.


The weekend’s fixtures (SA times, home teams first):


Friday:


Blues v Hurricanes 9.35am;
Force v Brumbies, 1.05pm


Saturday:


Crusaders v Highlanders 9.35am;
Reds v Waratahs 11.40am;
Lions v Stormers 3pm;
Cheetahs v Bulls 5.05pm;
Sharks v Chiefs, 7.10pm.


Sapa – Super14.com

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