The Hurricanes, last year's beaten finalists, are in a pivotal match against the Jaguares in Wellington tomorrow.

They have endured what must be considered a less than smooth first part of the season having been given a hiding by the Brumbies and losing to the Highlanders. They got their first win in round three against the Blues but struggled a bit against the Force in Wellington in their last match a fortnight ago before their bye last weekend.

The bye would have come at a good time because it would have given them a chance to see how the trends of the new season are developing and how the adjustments to the laws have taken effect. It's one thing to do it in pre-season, another entirely during the season proper.

And that's what the game is about - finding new ways to win rugby matches by working within the laws of the game and getting the best of your squad. At the start of the season their balance didn't look quite right. They seemed stuck in last year's pattern and clearly it wasn't working. There has been a bit of speculation about why Beauden Barrett has been standing so deep on attack and he has revealed that that is all to do with their game plan. I wonder whether we might see a few changes from here on in.


I suspect we will see a different Hurricanes along with a different Julian Savea. It goes without saying what the recently departed Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith brought to the team, and now Savea has to shoulder some of that responsibility in terms of leadership.

He hasn't had the start he would have wanted, but having been left out of the Force match and now with his team's bye, that's a fortnight's break I'm sure he has used well.

The last time he was left out of the All Blacks - the start of last year's Rugby Championship - he came back in devastating form, so maybe he's the spark the Hurricanes need. While at 25 Savea is still young, he is a senior player for both the Hurricanes and the All Blacks. He has to realise that with Nonu and Smith gone the younger players will be turning to him for leadership and inspiration and he has to shoulder that responsibility.

I suspect the last two weeks of him not playing any Super Rugby will have touched a nerve. We'll find out tomorrow. This is a big game for the Hurricanes because the Jaguares are a capable team. We've seen glimpses of it and they look to be on the cusp of putting it all together. The Hurricanes need to get it right or they will be come the Argentine team's first New Zealand scalp.

A word on the Highlanders, who face the Reds in Brisbane tomorrow without fullback Ben Smith, who has concussion. In my mind Smith is the best Super Rugby player going around at the moment. He is so dynamic and consistent and vital to the Highlanders; you can't replace what he brings to the team, but it will fall on others to try to bring his energy.

He simply doesn't make mistakes and when he's on the field the Highlanders follow his lead by making very few errors. They will need to maintain their standards in his absence.