Put aside, for a moment, the Dane Coles saga.

The Hurricanes' skipper and hooker has firmed his chances of playing after running at training this afternoon, but the result of this crucial semifinal hinges on the outcome of some juicy match-ups across the park, which should have the All Blacks coaches licking their lips in anticipation.

It starts in the low numbers, as all rugby games hinge on the contest there.

Chiefs tighthead prop Atu Moli faces down his fellow Tongan mate from Waikato, Loni Uhila, who has kept his spot as Reggie Goodes remains on the sidelines after concussion. Kane Hames is an under-rated scrummager who will give Ben May much to ponder. The Chiefs scrum is much-improved from the April match, which ended in Golden Oldies, amidst much gnashing of teeth. May and Uhila are not front-liners, but did the job to admirable effect against the Sharks.


It is hard to look past the Ardie Savea-Sam Cane openside contest as being instructional and perhaps pivotal. Savea is a better tackler than he is given credit for, while Cane is turning into a combative warrior, and he has shrugged off concussion against the Stormers to take his place on the side of the Chiefs' scrum.

Cory Jane will have his hands full on the wing with James Lowe, while Willis Halaholo and Matt Proctor will test the sometimes frail defensive capabilities of All Black Seta Tamanivalu. Anton Lienert-Brown is a much stronger defensive footballer at No 12 for the Chiefs.

But most interest will come in the halves. Beauden Barrett was off training with a cold today but he and TJ Perenara, the latter coming off one his best matches as a pro, are as influential for the Hurricanes as Coles.

Aaron Cruden has played well since the June test window, and his partnership with Brad Weber is bearing fruit, but Tawera Kerr-Barlow appeals as the sort of muscular No 9 more likely to keep Perenara quiet in his sniping around the fringes.

Cruden will take the ball flat and look to put runners into holes, but can his kicking game match that of Barrett, who had the ball on a string in appalling conditions last Saturday night?

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd understandably saw no need to make any changes, other than bracketing Coles with Ricky Riccitelli, and he foresaw no scrum dramas this time.
"There'll be a good contest in the scrum. Their scrummaging has improved significantly since then, so I don't think there'll be any Golden Oldies," says Boyd.

"We've looked at the last half dozen games with the Chiefs and they are playing slightly differently, and so are we.

"If you give the Chiefs half a chance on the crumbs that get spilt, they will punish you for it, so our ability to scramble on defence will be crucial."

Around 25,000 tickets had been sold as of today, and, with decent weather forecast, the semifinal is on track to top 30,000, as it should.

Hurricanes: James Marshall, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Willis Halaholo, Jason Woodward, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Dane Coles (c)/Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli/Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Vince Aso, Julian Savea