It is extremely congested at the top of the Super Rugby standings, where just seven points separate the teams in the top half of the table.
The Hurricanes, New Zealand’s leading side, and the Waratahs (third on the Aussie conference) are caught up in this mad rush for points ahead of the looming June break. After a slow start to the season – a winless tour of South Africa – a string of wins has seen the Hurricanes surge to the top of the New Zealand conference.
“They’re certainly playing some really good football,” the Waratahs’ Wallaby centre Adam Ashley-Cooper told the Sydney Morning Herald. “They’ve changed their style of attack and how they go about things and it seems to be working for them,” Ashley-Cooper added.
“For us, it’s a really big game.
“We’re at home, we need to win. Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted last week [a 13-21 loss to the Blues] and I feel this game could define our season.” Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett also spoke about the significance of the occasion and how important momentum is going to be in the next four weeks.
“I’m not sure if that’s a pressure.” Hammett told The Dominion Post, when asked about leading the New Zealand conference. “If it is, then that’s a good one.
“If you want to make the play-offs, you’ve got to live with that. “A week in this competition can change things immensely.”
2013: Hurricanes won 41-29, Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 33-12, Sydney
2010: Waratahs won 32-16, Sydney
2009: Waratahs won 26-22, Wellington
2008: Waratahs won 20-3, Sydney
2007: Waratahs won 38-14, Wellington
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements – from: Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Pat McCutcheon, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Cam Crawford, Alofa Alofa.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia) , Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)