Super Rugby
Super Rugby final preview: team news, line-ups
ESPN Staff
July 2, 2015
Super Rugby Grand Final preview

Saturday, July 4

Hurricanes v Highlanders, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Head-to-head: Played 25, Hurricanes 14, Highlanders 11

In Wellington: Played 9, Hurricanes 4, Highlanders 5

Last Clash: Round 17, 2015 - Hurricanes 53-20 Highlanders, Napier

The Hurricanes' Victor Vito is all smiles in victory, Hurricanes v Brumbies, Super Rugby, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, June 27, 2015
Victor Vito hopes to smile some more on Saturday © Getty Images
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Key Stats

  • Before the Highlanders were humbled 56-20 by the Canes in Round 17, each of the previous 13 meetings between these sides had been settled by seven or fewer points.
  • The Hurricanes have won 10 of 11 home games since losing to the Highlanders in Round 14 of the 2014 season, their only loss coming to the Waratahs in Round 10 of 2015..
  • The Highlanders boast the superior lineout record, boasting an 89% success rate compared with the Hurricanes' 81%.

Line-ups

  • Hurricanes: James Marshall; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith (captain), Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Victor Vito, Ardie Savea/Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields; James Broadhurst, Jeremy Thrush; Ben Franks, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes. Replacements: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Callum Gibbins/Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson, Chris Smylie, Rey Lee-Lo, Matt Proctor.
  • Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain); Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne; Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Nasi Manu (co-captain), James Lentjes, Elliot Dixon; Mark Reddish, Alex Ainley; Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds Replacements: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ross Geldenhuys, Joe Wheeler, Gareth Evans, Shane Christie, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Hurricanes: Jason Woodward (Broken Ankle, Season) Cory Jane (hamstring, Indefinite)
  • Highlanders: Shane Christie (Hamstring, Indefinite), Kane Hames (Knee, Indefinite), John Hardie (Rib, Indefinite), Dan Pryor (Dislocated Elbow, Indefinite).

Team News

  • In-form Hurricanes back-rower Ardie Savea will be given right up until kick-off to prove his fitness after he was bracketed alongside Callum Gibbons at No.7. Savea left the field midway through the Canes' win over the Brumbies last week but was still named Man of the Match. The only confirmed change to the side comes on the bench where back-up hooker Motu Matu'u returns ahead of Brayden Mitchell.
  • Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has retained the starting XV that defeated the Waratahs in Sydney last weekend so Elliot Dixon will play his 50th game for the Highlanders, capping a great season after being named in the NZ Maori All Blacks squad. Joseph has retained a six forward-two backs split on the bench to give the pack plenty of firepower for the final, with Marty Banks the only change to the match-day squad after replacing Trent Renata.

Greg Growden's Verdict: We have the final we've all dreamed of. This will be spectacular, as you just know both teams will opt for all-out attack at full pace. In the end it will come down to who is most dominant up front, and what is more potent: the All Blacks centre combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith or the ingenuity of the Highlanders half-back Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith. The authority of the Hurricanes pack should get them through.

Tips - Greg Growden: Hurricanes by 7 Sam Bruce: Hurricanes Brett McKay: Hurricanes Brittany Mitchell: Hurricanes Andy Withers: Highlanders

Andy Withers is alone among the ESPN team in tipping the Highlanders © Getty Images
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