Rugby: Hurricanes stay at home for big chase to playoffs

By Daniel Richardson

Skipper Conrad Smith scores despite Tom English's best tackling efforts in the Hurricanes-Rebels match in Melbourne on Friday night.  Photo / Getty Images
Skipper Conrad Smith scores despite Tom English's best tackling efforts in the Hurricanes-Rebels match in Melbourne on Friday night. Photo / Getty Images

The Hurricanes can look forward to home cooking for the rest of the Super Rugby season.

Three of their final five home games will take place in the familiar confines of Wellington's Westpac Stadium and all of their remaining games are against New Zealand opposition.

Given the quality of the Kiwi teams this season it's a tough run to the playoffs but the Hurricanes can make the post-season with a strong finish.

They're sitting third in the New Zealand conference and sixth place overall after their 25-15 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night.

It wasn't a flashy win but the Hurricanes ground out a much-needed result after the Waratahs had killed off their winning streak the week before.

The Highlanders are up first at the Cake Tin on Friday night before they host the Chiefs the following week then head to Auckland to meet the Blues with the June break to follow.

After the international window they will meet the Crusaders in Wellington before going to Hamilton to meet the defending-champion Chiefs again before having the bye to round out the regular season.

"One good thing is, if we perform and we are good enough to win these games, we'll be in the playoffs," Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith said.

There are mixed views on the games between the Kiwi sides with some players feeling they take too much of a physical toll, while others relish the opportunity to test themselves against their mates.

Smith falls into the latter category and Hurricanes wing Cory Jane is cut from a similar cloth.

"These are games that you want to win just because they're New Zealand teams," Jane said. "So it's going to be another step because they play an expansive game. But we've got to keep improving and keep getting better because at the end of the day we want to be in the playoffs."

The Hurricanes believe they're good enough to be involved in the post-season in 2014 and have shown the makings of a playoff team.

Despite their slow start to the year where they dropped their first three outings they've looked sharp in recent weeks and have only lost once in their past six.

Their victory over the Rebels was the type of game you would expect them to find tough but they were happy to grind out a result.

"We've got a forward pack that's willing to roll their sleeves up," Smith said.

The performance of tough-tackling No8 Victor Vito was crucial to their fortunes on Friday and they will need more of the same in the business end of their campaign.

- APNZ

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