After the way they dismantled the Crusaders, there is no questions about the Hurricanes' quality. Tonight against the Sharks is about making sure they've learnt the lessons of their past.

They're on a roll and coming off the back of a very good win, they're at home and are heavy favourites - it's a classic situation of entering a game where they're expected to win. But that's exactly where they've faltered in years past.

If you look back through the history of the Hurricanes, these are traditionally the games that can catch them out, when they can put in the type of performance that could be very costly.

Last year they certainly proved they were capable of banishing that inconsistency. They had players who had clearly had enough of all that crap, to be honest, and were experienced All Blacks who knew how to get through that adversity.


But with the likes of Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu gone, they have less of that luxury this year. I did like the maturity of Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara last week, while Victor Vito looked like a leader and Cory Jane can be instrumental.

So those are the key faces and the All Blacks who need to now take that mental step of keeping the players grounded when it gets tough tonight. That, for me, is their biggest challenge. If they get that under control, they'll win.

Although, looking at the Sharks team, it's full-strength and a very good side full of Spingboks. I think they're incredibly capable and with that amount of experience, all they need is a sniff.

Tonight is going to be a tough game and the Hurricanes' players need to be mentally prepared for that. Because the Sharks will be, they'll be motivated, and they have the experience of all those Springboks who have been in these situations. So certainly don't write them off.

Looking at the other quarter-finals overnight, I think the two teams in South Africa are the two who were the most likely to go there and win. I'm not sure the Hurricanes would have been able to, and it probably would have been too much travel for the Highlanders.

But neither the Crusaders not the Chiefs will be daunted by travelling to the Republic. Thinking back to when the Crusaders launched their season this year, it was off the back of their South Africa trip, and that's one thing the franchise has historically done well.

Travelling there has often been a catalyst for the Crusaders - I've been part of groups who have headed there and galvanised. As a player, you really do get tight and relish the opportunity to play in pretty good conditions and really attack the game.

The draw wasn't a great outcome for the Crusaders but it could have been worse - if they had to play the Hurricanes two weeks in a row, I think it would have been a bridge too far.

As for the Chiefs, they've shown all year that they just don't get fazed by whatever's in front of them, whether it's injuries or travel or hosting a home game in Fiji.

Of the two sides who had to go to South Africa for these conference playoffs, the two with the best chances are in the Republic right now. And I'm predicting both of them to win and set up two all-Kiwi semifinals next weekend.