The table-topping Hurricanes have been the biggest surprise of the 2015 Super Rugby season. Daniel Richardson casts an eye over the first half of their campaign

It's eight down, eight to go for the Hurricanes and few would have predicted they'd have won seven of those eight to start the year.

Expectations were low in the capital during pre-season and there was a feeling of unease given the way new coach Chris Boyd took Wellington to relegation during last year's ITM Cup.

But while that looked awful on paper, it didn't tell the full story and Boyd had an ace up his sleeve in defensive guru John Plumtree. The assistant coach, who has previously worked with the Sharks and the Irish national side, has the Hurricanes' forward pack firing.

What has worked?
Defence wins championships and the Canes have been immense in that department this season. They make 89 per cent of their tackles. That defence has laid the platform to attack and they've been dangerous on the counter.


What hasn't worked?
They've given up too much ball in recent weeks. The Rebels and Stormers didn't have the quality in the backs to take advantage but the Waratahs made them pay last weekend as the Hurricanes suffered their first loss of the campaign.

Find of the year:
Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder adds another dimension to an already thrilling Hurricanes backline.

His dazzling footwork is something to behold. The 24-year-old from Manawatu isn't international quality yet but he has potential in droves.

Sliding under the radar:
Loosehead prop Reggie Goodes isn't a household name, nor the biggest front-rower, but the 23-year-old, who is listed at 1.84m and 112kg, has enjoyed a strong season. Goodes holds his own in the scrums and is dynamic around the field.

Best performance:
Beating the Bulls 17-13 in Pretoria in round two. The Hurricanes eased past the Lions in their season-opener but victory over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld Stadium proved they had real ability. Their forwards fronted up, the side made countless tackles and showed enough on attack to grind out the result.

Where to from here?
The road gets tougher for the Hurricanes.

Six of their final eight games are New Zealand derbies, while a trip to Brisbane to meet the Reds this weekend won't be as easy as it seems. The Hurricanes host the Crusaders next week and the Sharks will be on the menu on May 9 in the capital when the Durban-based side arrives, which is when hooker Dane Coles is due to return from an elbow injury. You'd have to favour the Hurricanes to make the playoffs but it won't be easy.