Daniel Richardson

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

Rugby: Canes facing sudden death footy

The Hurricanes have their backs against the wall and they know it.

They have four games left in the Super Rugby season and if they want to be part of the playoffs they probably have to win them all.

Other mathematics may come in to the equation as the campaign nears its close but winning will be the simple remedy to their problems.

They're eighth, near the playoffs, but have four tough outings to finish the competition with home-and-away fixtures against the Chiefs, a trip to Auckland to meet the Blues and a home outing against the Crusaders.

"It's almost like the knockout stages of a World Cup," Hurricanes assistant coach Alama Ieremia said.

"If you lose from now on, you're gone. We'll find a theme for the week and take it from there."

The theme this week should be "desperation" or something similar. They could also look at fixing their usually reliable lineout, which misfired badly during their 18-16 loss to the Highlanders in Wellington last Friday.

They were without regular hooker Dane Coles, who tweaked his back and was forced to spend the night on the sidelines; as fill-in, Motu Matu'u struggled with his throwing.

Coles is likely to be fit to meet the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

The Chiefs have experienced their own issues at set-piece this year.

"It's no secret that their lineout has struggled," Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst said. "It's an area we try and target every week, no matter the opposition, so it won't be any different this week."

Their preparation has been hampered with a number of players on All Black duty in Christchurch but they will rejoin the Hurricanes either tonight or tomorrow morning.

Beauden Barrett's fitness will also be at the forefront of the Hurricanes' thinking during the next few days.

The first-five, who hasn't missed a game during the last three seasons, took a knock to his hip during the loss to the Highlanders and although he trained with the All Blacks during their camp in Christchurch yesterday, Ieremia said they would monitor his health closely.

Their alternative first-five options are Marty Banks and James Marshall. Or they could push second-five Tim Bateman in one spot given he has played pivot for Wellington in the ITM Cup.

Meanwhile, outgoing Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was confirmed yesterday as the new director of rugby for Welsh club Cardiff Blues on a three-year deal.

Hammett's departure may mean a shake-up in the management team at the Hurricanes but Ieremia had no comment on his future.

"My future's about trying to beat the Chiefs," Ieremia said. "That'll come out probably later on in the piece but I'm focusing on making sure these boys perform. Hammer's made his decision, so I wish him all the best."

- APNZ

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