Super 14 - Game of the Week
'Canes meet Crusaders in NZ derby
April 1, 2010
Piri Weepu has been recalled for the Hurricanes after a loss of form © Getty Images
Two New Zealand heavyweights collide on Friday night when the desperate Hurricanes host the high-flying Crusaders at Westpac Stadium.
The Super 14 Round 8 opener sees traditional powerhouses the Hurricanes trying to snap a rare four game losing streak against the third-placed Crusaders, who are fresh off the bye and sitting pretty at the halfway point.
The hosts raced off to a frenetic start to the campaign with three wins on New Zealand soil before a fruitless three-week trip to South Africa derailed their season. A return to Wellington to welcome the Sharks, off the pace this year, should have provided an ideal opportunity to return to the winners' circle but they fell to a 29-26 defeat at the last.
Meanwhile, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw have been driving the Crusaders into a commanding position as New Zealand's only side in the top six. Todd Blackadder's men are coming off a bye, prior to which a number of fringe players impressed when given the opportunity to start against the lowly Lions in Round 5.
Blackadder has made several changes from that side, reverting back to something like his first string XV for the trip to Wellington. One such change sees Carter back in the No.10 jersey, although his stand-in against the Lions, Colin Slade, will start again, this time at fullback ahead of Jared Payne.
Former Hurricanes Zac Guildford and Robbie Fruean line up against their old mates for the first time while hooker Corey Flynn is the only player ruled out through injury.
Blackadder said: "There were some tough decisions to be made but we believe we have selected a very strong team to play the Hurricanes in what will be a torrid match. The Hurricanes will be desperate for a win over us. They beat us at home last year and we are preparing for a very tough battle."
The 'Canes welcome back Hosea Gear on the wing after the All Black was sidelined since Round 1 with a knee injury. Colin Cooper has also elected to promote Piri Weepu to the starting line-up ahead of reserve scrum-half Tyson Keats, who has failed to reverse the team's fortunes during his run in the team.
Cooper said he was hoping the experience of Weepu and Gear would benefit the team after they lost in a close one against the Sharks.
"We'll be looking for a lot more composure than what we had against the Sharks, we were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves and forcing things, so we've just got to have a lot of confidence," Cooper said.
"If you look at the team we've got a lot of experience in there. We're not far away, we've missed the last two games by four points so we've just got to really trust what we're doing.
"(Piri) has obviously got a lot of experience over Tyson. Tyson's given us what we needed, particularly in Africa he gave us a lot of energy and Piri wasn't playing to the standard we know he can play. But I felt that Piri really came on and made an impact in that second half against the Sharks so he gets his opportunity, but mainly it's the experience that he brings."
On the statistics front, Crusaders fly-half Carter is just four points away from the 1000-point mark in Super Rugby. He currently sits second in the all-time scoring stakes behind Brumbies centre Stirling Mortlock, who, of course, is still in action - although Carter is scoring at a far more rapid rate. The Hurricanes will need to put the brakes on Carter's tally to get the points they desperately need on Friday.
Hurricanes: Cory Jane; Andre Taylor, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear; Willie Ripia, Piri Weepu; John Schwalger, Andrew Hore (capt), Neemia Tialata, Jeremy Thrush, Michael Paterson, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Rodney So'oialo
Replacements: Dane Coles, Anthony Perenise, Bryn Evans, Scott Waldrom, Tyson Keats, Aaron Cruden, Jason Kawau.
Crusaders: Colin Slade; Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford; Daniel Carter, Andy Ellis; Wyatt Crockett, Ti'i Paulo, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw (capt), George Whitelock, Kieran Read
Replacements: Daniel Perrin, Ben Franks, Chris Jack, Thomas Waldrom, Kahn Fotuali'i, Adam Whitelock, Jared Payne.