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 indeed 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 Joburg. The Brumbies are capable on their own patch as well."
Boyd noted how tough the Crusaders' travel schedule is, given they will not be departing the country for the republic until this afternoon.
"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 thought 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, now obsolete in the playoffs. 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 precisely zero.
Boyd may have selection puzzles in his front-row if Reggie Goodes does not fully recover from a head knock, though he had passed a concussion test. 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 last weekend.
"On paper, it's possibly not even the best side in the playoffs, but it's a good team."