28 Jun 2015

Hurricanes tipped to win title

1:13 pm on 28 June 2015

The Hurricanes' vanquished semi-final opponents the Brumbies say the Wellington based side have the game plan and personnel to win their first Super Rugby title.

Julian Savea, 2015.

Julian Savea, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Hurricanes clinically destroyed the Brumbies 29-9 with a high tempo game, aimed at keeping the ball out of the Australian side's hands and stretching them across the field after they had battered them up the middle of the park.

"They're pretty good this year," Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham told reporters at Wellington Stadium. "It's one of their better years.

"They seem to have got their whole game right compared to previous years.

"They have some really good structures in their game and they stick to it.

"They also have a really good counter-attack and the way they open the game up off turnovers, they have the all round game to win it this year."

The Hurricanes will face the Highlanders next week in an all-New Zealand final, the first since 2006, after the Dunedin-based side beat last year's champions the New South Wales Waratahs 35-17 in Sydney.

While Larkham felt the way the Hurricanes could open the game up had been an important factor, his captain Stephen Moore felt their defence had also been critical.

"A lot is said about their attack and rightly so but their defence was terrific," the Australian test hooker said.

"They covered the field well and put us under pressure.

"You do need good defence like that to win the competition and that will hold them in good stead for next week."

Stephen Moore, 2015.

Stephen Moore, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Wellington stadium will undoubtedly sell out again for the grand final after 33,460 turned up for the victory over the Brumbies.

For the wider Wellington public there had not been a chance to commemorate the life of the former Hurricane and All Black captain, Jerry Collins ,who died three weeks ago in a road acident in France.

The rugby community, his family and those who knew him in his home town of Porirua, about 20 minutes north of Wellington, had grieved at his funeral last week, but the Hurricanes have had to bottle up their emotions.

Those emotions were still bubbling beneath the surface as a chant of "Jerry. Jerry. Jerry," spontaneously burst out from the crowd just before the end of the game.

Jerry Collins, 2008.

Jerry Collins, 2008. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 34-year-old was killed on June 5th less than an hour before the Hurricanes played the Highlanders in Napier.

A massive number six jersey was unfurled at halfway before kick off by members of his local rugby club Norths, while Bay Six of the stadium had been turned blue and white by others from the club in honour of Collins.

The Hurricanes have had "JC" embroidered on all of the playing jerseys and had spoken in the buildup to the semi-final about how much the spectre of Collins and their memories of him would fuel their performance.

"It's hard to quantify but it is definitely playing its part," Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said after the win.

"We don't want to focus on it. We acknowledge it but we let it burn inside and it comes out in its own special way."

Jerry Collins and Conrad Smith together in a Pretoria sin-bin, 2008.

Jerry Collins and Conrad Smith together in a Pretoria sin-bin, 2008. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

One way that was exhibited on Saturday against the Brumbies, would have left Collins quietly smiling to himself knowing his 'brothers' were doing their best to honour his memory.

The Hurricanes were brutal on defence, stopping the Brumbies attack before it really got into gear, with loose forward Ardie Savea, Victor Vito and Brad Shields particularly strong at the breakdown.

They then starved the Brumbies of possession and hammered them up the middle of the park before they spread the ball to expose gaps out wide.

It was the kind of cerebral approach that Collins, who often publicly played up to his hard man image to deflect from his burning intelligence, would have relished.

"It was a good mix of enterprise and defence," coach Chris Boyd said. "We didn't always get our options right but we managed to recover and get back into shape.

"It was a pleasing effort," he added in the type of understatement Collins probably would have appreciated most of all.