Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: No pressure, but Super Rugby title is Hurricanes' to lose

The Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday. Photo / Getty
The Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday. Photo / Getty

At the risk of sending any superstitious Hurricanes' supporters brave enough to read this into a state of nervous shock, this is the year for their team - they won't get a better chance to win a Super Rugby title.

Their road to their maiden success has been paved by their excellent performances this season, sure, but also a bit of luck. If they beat the Chiefs at the Cake Tin on Saturday their final opponent - either the Lions or Highlanders - will be their third in succession to have made the trip across the Indian Ocean from South Africa only days before a knockout match.

That is an incredible advantage for the Hurricanes, who showed their title credentials during their 35-10 demolition of the Crusaders in Christchurch in their final round-robin match before they dismantled a clueless Sharks 41-0 in appalling weather conditions in their quarter-final in Wellington at the weekend.

The fortunate part of the equation came yesterday morning; they could do nothing about the Lions v Crusaders quarter-final result in Johannesburg but it played out perfectly for them.

If Todd Blackadder's men had won at Ellis Park, they would be travelling to Wellington to play the Hurricanes, and the Chiefs would be travelling to Dunedin to play the Highlanders in the other semifinal, which would have mitigated against the travel demands for both teams slightly for the final week.

Instead, the Crusaders' defeat sent the Highlanders to South Africa, an odyssey for Jamie Joseph's men which comes after their recent matches in Port Elizabeth, Buenos Aires, Dunedin and Canberra.

In coaches Chris Boyd and John Plumtree the Hurricanes appear to have the perfect pair to help them deal with the expectation which now must build following their final failure last year against the Highlanders, and in TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett they have two playmakers at the top of their games.

The big question remains whether all their players truly believe they can do it. They were favourites last year to go all the way but tripped up and rugby supporters in the capital will be well aware how often the Wellington Lions have fallen at the final hurdle of the national provincial championship.

The Hurricanes have lost two finals - the other was the "foggy" final of 2006 against the Crusaders in Christchurch - and they have lost five semifinals. A failure this year would compound all of that and leave a significant mental scar.

The Chiefs will provide a worthy test, but their travel demands must play a part in the final quarter on Saturday, and who knows what sort of shape the Highlanders will turn up in should they prevail against the Lions.

The Hurricanes were unlucky to lose to Dave Rennie's men in Wellington in their round-robin match infamous for the controversy which surrounding the circumstances which led to the non-contestable scrums, but had Jason Woodward not dropped a pass with the try-line open, the Hurricanes would have won.

As it happens, Woodward is playing superbly and will probably keep his place on the left wing ahead of All Black Julian Savea. Neither he, nor the Hurricanes, would drop the ball again, would they?

- NZ Herald

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