27 Jun 2015

OPINION: Can both NZ teams make the Super Rugby final?

5:44 pm on 27 June 2015

OPINION: We're down to the last four in the Super Rugby championship and the question now is whether both New Zealand teams can make the final.

The Hurricanes take on the ACT Brumbies in Wellington while the New South Wales Waratahs host the Highlanders in Sydney this weekend in the two semi-finals.

The Radio New Zealand website homepage will carry LIVE commentary tonight on both these matches from 7.35pm and 9.50pm respectively.

Hurricanes prop Reggie Goodes celebrates after scoring against the Crusaders 2015.

Hurricanes prop Reggie Goodes celebrates after scoring against the Crusaders in 2015 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Hurricanes and Waratahs had a weekend off after finishing in the top two spots after the regular season.

The Hurricanes are wary of both Australian teams, especially their dominant lineout and impressive mauling.

Lock Jeremy Thrush, who makes the lineout calls, says while the Hurricanes' lineout has had its trouble in recent weeks, he feels the problems are only minor and can be overcome.

Thrush also feels they've shown all year how well they can counter the opposition's mauling from a lineout.

The Brumbies will be hugely excited by their smash and grab raid to South Africa and they'll have the belief that they can do it again.

The team from Canberra should take encouragement from their performance that saw them tip over the Stormers last weekend, but the long trip there and back will take something out of them this weekend.

While they have also lost winger George Speight to suspension, they are a very good squad with a tough pack and an exciting backline - actually very similar to the Hurricanes.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham actually believes the week off may harm the Hurricanes.

He says they will be nice and fresh, but their combinations could be lacking, while for his team it's all about keeping the momentum going.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd Photo: Photosport

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd believes the week off has helped his team and they won't have any problems getting up for the game.

They have surprised me this year and I've regularly walked away from Westpac Stadium wondering how they had managed to win.

That's a good sign.

The Hurricanes are already celebrating attracting a crowd of more than 30,000, something that hasn't happened for a Super Rugby playoff game at Westpac Stadium since the last time they qualified for the post-season in 2006.

Boyd says one of their aims for the year was to get the fans back, and they've achieved that, but he says they'll have to perform to keep that respect.

The Highlanders, like the Brumbies, are coming off an impressive win over the Chiefs in Dunedin in their wildcard game last weekend.

Waisake Naholo and Jason Emery of the Highlanders celebrate after defeating the Chiefs.

Waisake Naholo and Jason Emery of the Highlanders celebrate after defeating the Chiefs. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It was another solid effort from their forward pack, that contains no All Blacks, while their exciting backs made things difficult for the Chiefs defence out wide.

You can put the Highlanders' success down to their coach Jamie Joseph and their team ethos.

Joseph has said all year that while they haven't had the household names in their squad, they do have a lot of players with Super Rugby experience.

First five Lima Sopoaga says they intend to carry on with the way they've played all season and he believes what got them this far is as much about what they do off the field as on it.

He says the team also have a focus on having fun.

Malakai Fekitoa in action for the Highlanders

Malakai Fekitoa scores for the Highlanders Photo: PHOTOSPORT

My only concern is whether they will be intimidated by a Waratahs team that has come into form at the right end of the season.

Joseph says his team's not at all daunted by the challenge of playing the defending champions on their home pitch in Sydney.

He says they're excited instead, though they know they've got a big task ahead of them, but they've done it before.

While the Highlanders beat the Waratahs earlier this season at home, the defending champions are showing signs that they have the all-round game to win the title again.

Only one team from outside the top two after the regular season has ever won the Super Rugby title. That was the 1999 Crusaders.

The final four

  • Brumbies have won two titles one in 2001 and the other in 2004
  • Waratahs won the title in 2014
  • Hurricanes were finalists in 2006
  • Highlanders were finalists in1999

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