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Waratahs v Hurricanes preview
Waratahs v Hurricanes preview
(Can the Canes complete the Aussie grand slam?)
Going into week 10 we have five teams battling for the last two semifinal spots. We have the Brumbies on 27, Reds on 26, Highlanders on 25, Blues on 24 and the Hurricanes on 22. Just the way we like it - nothing is decided until the end of the final week of the competition! To keep their hopes alive though, the Hurricanes will need to win all three of the remaining games with at least 1 bonus point too. The Hurricanes, once known for their daring and tryscoring prowess have this season transformed themselves into a real mongrel outfit intent on bone-jarring defence and just doing enough to win close games by getting the best goalkicker in the comp to kick penalty goals. While I'm certainly not opposed to this strategy if it means the Hurricanes will be a more consistant team, it does mean that the 4-try bonus point department takes a bit of a battering and this is the reason why the Hurricanes aren't in the top 4. Not that I'm complaining, mind you! I have always been a believer that you secure the four points before going for the extra one and this is exactly what is needed for the rest of the Hurricanes season if they are going to grab one of those top 4 berths. Of course, being a Hurricanes supporter I'm not looking ahead that far - but my personal prediction is that we will win against the Waratahs and Crusaders, everyone will talk us up, then we'll lose to the Chiefs against all the odds and miss out on point differential.

But onward to this weeks' game! The Waratahs in Sydney - an excellent team with just one loss to their name so far this year. Many people (myself included), have been surprised by the meteoric rise of NSW this year. Each week everyone keeps expecting them to crash and burn, and each week they pull a result out of the bag. To halt that trend for this week the Hurricanes must keep going the way they have been for the last month or so but with a few adjustments for a Waratahs team up on confidence and looking at a home semifinal.

Firstly we must realise one thing: what I said at the start of the year still holds true - essentially the Waratahs are, despite all their success, Matt Burke and 14 mediocre others. Matthew Burke is a player that I hold in very high regard and I think the Wallabies are going to regret not making him their captain. He's strong, powerfully built, fast, a great place-kicker and probably the longest punt-kicker in the Super 12 - maybe the world. But one player alone does not make a great team. I don't think any of the other Waratah players are experienced enough to keep cool heads and stay so near the top of the table: are they so high up that they may about to get a bad case of nose-bleed?

Here's my recipe for beating the Waratahs:

1. WIN THE LINEOUTS. That was one of the few blots on an otherwise heartening display against the Ponies. People complain about our 10c foward pack, but the Hurricanes do have two very good locks in Dion Waller and Paul Tito - both are tall, strong and aggressive (sometimes too aggressive!) and up until the game against the Highlanders I was very impressed with Hore the Hooker and the Hurricanes lineouts. They've had an extra week off to fix it so it better be fixed. The Waratahs have had lineout trouble of their own so there might be an opportunity there to win a few against the throw.

2. PLAY FOR TERRITORY. This is extra important against the Waratahs who seem to score most of their tries from close range - often by selling very good dummies and then ghosting through without a hand laid on them. The Waratahs haven't scored a long range try since their South African games so don't let them get near and they probably won't score 5 pointers. Easier said than done of course, but that's what needs to happen. The Brumbies did it quite effectively last week but ended up losing through the one time the Tahs DID get a scrum inside the opposition 22. Kick long and far and follow the kicks up.

3. TACKLE, TACKLE AND TACKLE SOME MORE. One thing that we've noticed with the Australian teams this year is that tackling them hard upsets them. They like to have space so they can pull their clever set pieces and give their kickers room. Don't give them any space and push the offside (sensibly of course). The Waratahs are coming off a bruising test-match-intensity game against the Brumbies. Smash them around even more this week and the gaps might begin to appear. Once you've kicked the ball long and put the Waratahs back in their own half make them earn every last metre that they gain back.

4. TAKE OUT MATT BURKE. Even if it means playing the rest of the game with 14 men. Burke is the foundation of the Waratahs - their only really good place-kicker, their inspirational captain and their ice-man who keeps the discipline. This may sound dirty - and it is, but I honestly believe that taking Burke out of the Waratahs would be worth playing with 14. All of their discipline would collapse, they'd miss every shot at goal and they'd panic. Mind you, you'd have to be a big bloke to take Burke on because as I said before he's big and strong and I'd wager he'd go a good few rounds with any rugby player you care to name... hmm... maybe try and get rid of him "legitimately" then.

5. KICK FOR GOAL WHEN 3 POINTS ARE ON OFFER. Davy Holwell hasn't missed a conversion ALL YEAR. Not because he's only had to do easy ones either - he landed two absolute beauties against the Brumbies from the sideline two weeks ago. Give him the chance and he'll kick the points. If they can unsettle the Waratahs and get a lot of these penalties (or even march a couple of Tahs off for a yellow card or two) then it will be a certain victory for the 3-point machine from Wellington.

So there it is. Win the lineouts, keep them far from the tryline, tackle them into the ground, take out Burkey and kick the 3-pointers. A pretty simple gameplan really - if they can pull it off it will be a certain 4 log points and a week of looking foward to the big game against our friends the Crusaders at the caketin. That will be the game to target the full 5 points instead of the 4 - but for now it's time to focus on finishing the Aussie grand slam. Bring it on!

Hurricanes! Hurricanes...


Let us know what you think!

Take no prisoners Nath! In one article you managed to insult
1) every Waratah player (other than Burke)
2) the Crusaders (by predicting a 5 pointer to the the Canes next week)
3) Mehrts and Flatley (who are the two best goal kickers in the comp)
4) arguably the four most devastating attacking backs in NZ rugby (Lomu, Cully, Tana and Pita) by calling them a bunch of defensive mongrels!
Supposedly this article has been viewed times since we bothered to start counting*.
(Although it could have just been on the Reload button doing some serious ego padding!)