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Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Highlanders

On the Canes Plane. The Hurricanes play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday night in their fourth round fixture.

  • By Kevin McCarthy

The march to the title starts this weekend.  Well, you got to hope, which sometimes is all you have at the bottom of the table.

In case, however, you haven’t been paying attention, there is a final in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Or more accurately, a playoff to see who will travel to Christchurch and play the Crusaders for a third time this tournament. Written like that, it sounds like one of those joke raffles.

After last weekend’s perplexing loss to the Chiefs (if you were there, it was a weird feeling because it never felt like a loss until it was) the Canes of course are at zip in the win’s column and bottom of the five teams.

At which point a lot of people start saying its time to treat 2021 as a chance to build for 2022, because the season is effectively over.  That’s always struck me as a funny concept – that you can now risk all sorts of things, because it doesn’t matter if it goes wrong.

But it does matter, so I suspect the temptation to treat the squad as a mad chemistry experiment is not anywhere near the management agenda. Indeed, if you take them at their word, they reckon the team is not far off winning (which is guaranteed to drive fans nuts, who would rather they were not far off losing).

Somethings can’t be changed, meaning of course the loss of two first-fives – neither of whom would have been first-choicers elsewhere.

But don’t let the Canes off easy with the rebuilding for 2021 line. If they are really there or thereabouts, then let’s see it. Let’s see evidence that they are learning from the losses.

As for making that final, it’s easy really. You just keep hoping the remaining teams (other than us) take turns at knocking each over. The Canes start that with a win tonight in Dunedin.

They then go to Eden Park and turn over the Blues.

At that point, and with growing confidence after being totally written off, they then host the Crusaders who have become bored with winning and finally turn in a shocker.

After that, the rest is easy.

Then again if we lose tonight against the Highlanders (who incidentally are also busy rearranging deck chairs and trying to rebook from ballast class) it’s all over. ‘

Unless of course the trans-Tasman bubble gets popped and the third-round jaunt against the Aussies sides never happens. Then I believe we’d have a third round of SRA.

That would give plenty of time to get to that final.

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Of course, we’re all keen to see Salesi Rayasi get another full 80 tonight. There’s been so much head-scratching over why a rising star hasn’t been used.

One suspects that his try-scoring ability is far greater than some of his other all-round game attributes, which they will have been working on.

But at some point – like now – what we need is a winger who scores tries. Ideally two, but the game never seems to run the way of the Bus.

In a different vein, let’s see Reuben Love given at run of more than 10 minutes or so if the game situation dictates it.  It’s not that long ago that Jordie Barrett was awkward and error-prone and sometimes looked nervous as hell.

Now he’s one of our talisman players.

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The Hurricanes team is:

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