Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Hurricanes' campaign taking on real urgency

Mark Hammett is acutely aware of his team's tenuous position on the table. Photo / NZPA
Mark Hammett is acutely aware of his team's tenuous position on the table. Photo / NZPA

Mark Hammett did things differently this week.

He showed his Hurricanes squad the Super rugby points table and then felt comfortable enough to discuss that with the media - something which coaches are known to divert from as they toe the party line and suggest they take little notice of such things.

It wasn't a major admission but it shows the urgency which has now engulfed the Hurricanes' season - it's down to: win or start thinking about 2014.

The problem is their final four games include visits to Canberra, Christchurch and Hamilton while they host a Highlanders side early next month who are the epitome of desperation.

The Australian Conference-leading Brumbies are on the menu across the Tasman tonight.

"We don't normally talk, as a team, around standings on the log and things like that," Hammett said. "But we did put that up [on Wednesday] to create the challenge that it is. It's a big weekend leading in to the June test window and we just want to give everything we can. We don't want to get over there and feel like we haven't given it everything."

The Hurricanes are in ninth but are only one win outside of a wildcard spot, although their -39 points differential needs some TLC. If they do slip their way in to the playoffs it will be a Herculean effort given the victories they will need to pull off on the road and would be the making of Hammett's young side.

But another mid-to-lower table finish may pose a few interesting questions about where the franchise is heading.

They missed the post-season by one win last year and if they come up short again there will be inquiries as to what the side needs to pull them over the hump.

There's no denying they've missed All Black Cory Jane, who has been crocked with a knee complaint, but Alapati Leiua has filled in with aplomb on the wing and now looks like a player who can't be dropped.

Ardie Savea's continued development will give them an extra edge at openside flanker next year, but Tim Bateman has underwhelmed in the midfield and lock Jason Eaton's best work is behind him.

They have the makings of a contender with a powerful front row, a dynamic loose trio and the most exciting halfback and first-five combination in the competition in TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, but they still need something more.

Just what that is remains to be seen but the clock is ticking for Hammett to find it.

- NZ Herald

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