No prizes for guessing what the game of the week is. The Hurricanes host the Chiefs, numbers one and two on the New Zealand Conference, and are the two of the most watchable teams in rugby.

It should be a brutal encounter. You look at the table and see the Hurricanes 10 points clear of the Chiefs and automatically assume this game takes on more importance for the away side. I don't necessarily agree with that.

The Chiefs still have to host the Hurricanes in the final round-robin match of the season, so if the Chiefs steal a win on Hurricanes soil, they have got themselves right back in the race to win the NZC, which in turn gives you a massive edge when it comes to the playoffs.

If the Hurricanes tomorrow night, despite a tricky run in where they play three away derbies, we can almost pencil them in as NZC champions.

Advertisement

So the equation is simple: it's a must-win for both sides.

Today's chalkboard is pretty simple and doesn't require an overly technical explanation. I believe this game will come down to one thing: how the Hurricanes cope with the Chiefs suffocating defensive model, which I have illustrated here.

The Chiefs defence is based on aggression. Where you see some teams commit very little to the breakdown and fan out, the Chiefs will aggressively attack the breakdown, then follow it up by using blistering line-speed to attack the first receiver.

When you have players coming out of the line quickly on defence, it can create a disconnect in the defensive line that quick-thinking five-eighths can expose with good option taking, but the Chiefs compensate for this by employing a drift defence in the middle of the park.

The final twist to their pattern is they also move up very quickly on the outside (like an umbrella defence), to cut off that channel.

What they are trying to do is force the Hurricanes' decision-makers into taking the wrong choice.

It is not a pattern without risk; as i have previously mentioned, the defenders can get disconnected and holes can appear, but they are the best in the business at forcing mistakes through pressure.

It will be fascinating, and pivotal to the outcome of this match - and possibly the NZC - to see how a Beauden Barrett-less Hurricanes deal with this pressure.

Advertisement