Super Rugby: Unknowns in road to the finals

By Campbell Burnes

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd suggests things are not as cut and dried as some pundits say. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd suggests things are not as cut and dried as some pundits say. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Chris Boyd is not so sure that the chances of four New Zealand sides reaching the semifinals are as cut and dried as many pundits and the form book would suggest.

"The sides are close enough together for travel to be a factor, but it's not going to be the factor. I think sides can win this competition home and away," says the Hurricanes coach, reflecting on his charges' top billing heading into the Super Rugby playoffs. "The Stormers are an unknown because no New Zealand side has played them this year. It's very hard to get a handle on just how strong the Stormers are, but they'll be hard to beat at Newlands. A very well rested Lions side will be tough to beat in Jo'burg. The Brumbies are capable on their own patch as well."

Boyd noted how tough the Crusaders' travel schedule is, given they did not depart for the Republic until today.

"I wouldn't like to say there are going to be four Kiwi sides [in the semis].

I hope there are."

While he acknowledged the Sharks will have a long travel haul to come to the capital and face a side riding high and smarting from the 32-15 reverse they suffered in Durban in May, that will not alter the Hurricanes' mindset or preparation this week.

"That performance is a long time ago now and we've got some reasonable momentum at the moment, so we just have to make sure we get our preparation right and tick the boxes. We've found with this side that our preparation is crucial to our performance, so we need to make sure it's nice and tidy this week, and enjoy the fact that we can come out and play a quarter at home, where we probably didn't think that would happen, even though that was always the goal," says Boyd.

One shift in mindset is that the Hurricanes no longer have to go all-out in search of a bonus point. They can play percentage rugby if that is required. Beauden Barrett did, however, kick the ball 12 times against the Crusaders, so expect something similar on Saturday night, especially if things get gnarly in the packs.

And expect Barrett to have more penalty shots at goal than he had against the Crusaders, where he had none.

Boyd may have selection puzzles in his front-row if Reggie Goodes does not fully recover from a head knock. He will need to train fully by Thursday, leaving the "Tongan Bear" Loni Uhila to make another big impact off the bench. Midfielders Vince Aso and Matt Proctor are likely to be available, though it would be a tough call on Willis Halaholo if he was demoted.

Boyd can reflect on a solid 11-4 regular season: "We've dropped four games, two of them by a point, to the Highlanders and Chiefs, and had two blowouts, in round one [against the Brumbies] and then against the Sharks," he says.

It looks like he has the making of a champion team, and one that was ranked seventh on the table before the dramatic victory last weekend.

"On paper, it's possibly not even the best side in the playoffs, but it's a good team."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 05 Dec 2016 23:47:20 Processing Time: 637ms