Each day this week nzherald.co.nz looks at the progress of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises heading into the business end of the tournament. Today: Daniel Richardson grades the Hurricanes
Season so far:
(5-5) 4th in New Zealand Conference, 11th overall
1. Best Result
41-29 v Waratahs, Wellington, Week 8
It wasn't perfect but it was a game that showed what the Hurricanes can do with ball in hand and was their fourth victory on the bounce. Wing Julian Savea was at his brutal best as he scored a double while first-five Beauden Barrett kicked well for goal and their forwards were mobile all night.
It was after this win where the castle began to crumble.
2. Worst Result
14-48 v Bulls, Pretoria, Week 12
OK, maybe it gets a mention because it's fresh in the mind but this was a poor display. Their forward pack didn't front up and provide enough punch. The tactic of running the ball from all quarters didn't pay off and they lost skipper Conrad Smith to a nasty concussion. It was pretty much a `worst-case scenario' game.
3. Best Player
Big, strong and fast; this 22-year-old hits and carries hard. He is the prototype No 6 and must be included in selection conversations for the All Blacks squad ahead of the test series against France next month. After struggling with injury in the early stages of his career Shields has made 10 straight starts for the Hurricanes this year and just happens to boast very similar dimensions to one Jerome Kaino.
4. Biggest Flop
Playing Tusi Pisi at first-five in round nine against the Blues. The Hurricanes were riding a four-match winning streak heading in to their return clash against Sir John Kirwan's side before Mark Hammett and Alama Ieremia decided to play the country's third-best No 10, Beauden Barrett, at fullback and give Pisi a run at pivot. The Blues then beat the Hurricanes 28-6 and their season hasn't been the same since. Pisi got one more week to run the cutter but after the Canes stumbled past a woeful Force side 22-16, common sense prevailed and Barrett returned to first-five after spending two bizarre weeks at the back.
5. 2013 Prospects
It's a tough road from here. They have six games left and essentially have to win out if they want to make the playoffs. The problem with that is they still have to meet the Brumbies, Chiefs (twice) and the Crusaders in their final half dozen games. Winning all six seems outside the realms of possibility but four or five wins with bonus points and some results going their way could see them sneak in to the playoffs. Translation: Their season is as good as done.
6. 2014 Prospects
Promising. The Hurricanes are loaded with young players in the right positions and by next season Ardie Savea will have filled out enough to be a Super Rugby regular to give the Hurricanes the x-factor they need at No 7. If TJ Perenara and Barrett continue to progress they could be playoff contenders. Then again, I said the same thing this time last year.
Ardie Savea on a run during the Hurricanes' week eight win over the Waratahs. Photo /Getty Images