The Hurricanes play just their second New Zealand conference clash since March 18 - when Dane Coles was injured - on Saturday against the Crusaders.

They know the trip to Christchurch will not be a happy one against the 10-0 home side if they bring the same level of ill-discipline and profligacy to their work that they showed against the staunch Stormers last Friday night.

That 41-22 result was extraordinary in many ways, scoring seven tries to one but off their game for large tracts of the clash, and they will have watched the Crusaders dispatch the Bulls 62-24 at Loftus with a degree of trepidation. The Crusaders themselves, even without senior men Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, can field six All Blacks in their tight five stocks plus the indefatigable interim skipper Matt Todd.

The Hurricanes are on 38 points but with a game in hand on the Crusaders, flying high on 46. They meet again in Wellington for the final round on July 15. But one would think several of the Crusaders have long memories and have not forgotten the 35-10 shellacking at AMI Stadium last season that saw the Hurricanes snatch top billing for the playoffs in dramatic fashion.


Like the Chiefs, the Hurricanes have been racking up the wins despite not firing for anything like the full 80 minutes. There is still the opportunity to topple the leaders and top the conference just as the Blues and Highlanders look to be in a dogfight for the fourth position and a playoffs ticket.

Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland knows Scott Robertson and several of the Crusaders well from his time at Canterbury.

"As a coach, you feel the boys drive a bit more of the intensity and excitement in these weeks. It's great to be playing them because they are top of the table and we aren't far behind," Holland says. He is mindful of the Crusaders' set-piece quality, but they do have an under-rated backline, marshalled by No 10 Richie Mo'unga, outstanding against the Bulls.

The Hurricanes were grumpy doing their debrief of the Stormers.

"We thought we were pretty average in parts of our game. There were elements of our attack where our skillsets were not where they needed to be. We turned over a bit of ball, and didn't quite nail our simple things," Holland says.

They did nail the crosskick as an attacking weapon, yielding an astonishing four tries, but aside from some individual brilliance again from the Barrett boys, they seemed strangely out of sync at times.

The injury update is largely unchanged. Coles rested up over the weekend but he is not a starter for this weekend, nor is Matt Proctor, who is apparently making progress in his quest to shake concussion symptoms. Nehe Milner-Skudder is still weeks away from a return.