The Hurricanes will be happy to see the end of their South African series – five consecutive matches against teams from the Republic.
Jan de Koning – Rugby365
While the Wellington outfit has a better than average all-time record against teams from SA, this year has not been a good run for them. Apart from a win at home, in Round Three, against the lowly Lions, the ‘Canes have lost three in a row and slipped from second to eighth on the standings.
The return of Cory Jane from concussion is a major fillip for the Hurricanes, after they came within a point of upstaging the table-topping Bulls last week.
Captain and hooker Andrew Hore plays his 85th match for the Hurricanes, which puts him into fourth equal position with Christian Cullen and Jerry Collins on the all-time list of appearances for the Hurricanes.
They will be up against a Sharks team buoyed by their first win last week. The Sharks have twice before lost five and won one of their first six matches of the season.
The sub-plot to this game comes in the form of the coaches – former Wellington coaches John Plumtree and Chris Boyd, who now head the Sharks coaching panel, up against a good ‘friend’ in Colin Cooper.
The Sharks are stacked with experience and match-winners such as Springbok captain and prop John Smith, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, No.8 Ryan Kankowski, midfielder Adrian Jacobs, wing JP Pietersen, utility halfback Ruan Pienaar and veteran utility back Stefan Terblanche.
Terblanche first appeared for the Sharks against the Hurricanes in 1998. Rodney So’oialo is the current Hurricanes’ player with the earliest association against the Sharks – he first appeared against them in 2001.
While the Hurricanes will look to arrest the slide that has seen them slip out of play-off territory, the Sharks are cautiously optimistic about their trip to Wellington.
Plumtree admitted there is “much work to do”, despite their defeat of the Highlanders last week.
“We’ve had a thorough review of the game and there is still plenty for us to work on; there are still some things we’re not happy with,” Plumtree said from the team’s base in Wellington.
“We’re playing a different animal this weekend in the Hurricanes who are coming off three losses and are back at home so they need to get their campaign back on track.
“We know that it’s going to be a pretty desperate Hurricanes team.”
Super 14 results:
2009: Sharks won 33-17, Durban
2008: Hurricanes and Sharks drew 13-13, Wellington
2007: Sharks won 27-14, Durban
2006: Hurricanes won 23-17, Wellington
rugby365.com Prediction: Winning in the Cake Tin is never easy. In fact the Sharks have never won in Wellington. Their best result there is a draw. They have two wins on New Zealand soil against the Hurricanes – in Palmerston North (1998) and New Plymouth (2004). It is difficult to see the Sharks overcoming a much-improved Hurricanes outfit. It will be a close call, but the Hurricanes will win – by less than 10 points.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Andre Taylor, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 David Smith.
The Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Stefan Terblanche, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (captain).
Replacements: 16 Tendai Mtawarira, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)