Rugby: Hurricanes looking for more polish against Waratahs

By Campbell Burnes

Vaea Fifita scored a double in the Hurricanes win over the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.
Vaea Fifita scored a double in the Hurricanes win over the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.

The Hurricanes are learning to win when they have not played their best, or close to their best.

It's the mark of a good team, the All Blacks being the personification of that ability to do what it takes to get the W.

However, after an energised second half which contrasted with an insipid first 40 in the 37-27 win over the Blues on Saturday night, the Hurricanes know any such lethargy and inaccuracy against the Waratahs in Sydney this weekend will be punished.

The fast-finishing Waratahs scored five tries through their back four, with Israel Folau at centre, in their 57-12 shellacking of the Sunwolves, and in late May dispatched an off-colour Chiefs to show what they can do at home.

Coach Chris Boyd mentioned at halftime in the Blues clash that it had "degenerated into a game of touch," so some extra work on the tackle bags and in front of the video screen perfecting the systems will be in order.

It was uncharacteristic of a side that paraded the second best defence in Super Rugby in 2015.

"It was a wobbly old start, but to get some correction on that and come out on top was very pleasing," says Boyd.

The manner in which the Blues attacked, with more thrust from the likes of Steven Luatua, Jerome Kaino and Male Sa'u, may have caught the Hurricanes on the hop, and they commanded something close to 65 percent of the ball, forcing the Hurricanes to make 200 tackles, of which Ardie Savea made no less than 21.

Seven of the team actually featured in the top 25 tacklers from the round. However, there were some key misses in the first spell, notably from loose forwards Victor Vito and Vaea Fifita on Sa'u when he broke the line to set up Kara Pryor. Both players made amends, with Fifita nailing a double to sink the Blues in the final quarter.

"We had some minor technical issues in our defensive alignment, which the players identified at halftime, and also we weren't in control of the breakdown," says Boyd.

"Vaea had a good offensive game... he didn't have the greatest defensive game, but he's a spooky athlete. You could probably play him on the wing."

Halfback TJ Perenara acknowledged that Saturday night was not their best work, but also paid credit to the Blues.

"We didn't play the best footy. As a whole, we can accept that we didn't play the brand of footy in the first half that was good enough to beat a team like the Blues. But we regrouped in the second half and did a lot of things well," says Perenara.

"We were under the pump for part of that game. They broke the line, scored some tries and put our skillsets under pressure."

New Zealand Under 20 lock Isaia Walker-Leawere, just 19 and fresh from the World Rugby Under 20 Championship, where he was not used as a front-liner, has been called in to replace Blade Thomson, who is due for a shoulder reconstruction this Friday.

Also missing is the luckless Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who has a broken forearm, while the rest of the squad is banged up after another typically intense New Zealand conference scrap.

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