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Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Chiefs

Peter Lakai starts at openside flanker for the Hurricanes tonight against the Chiefs, alongside Devan Flanders in his 50th game and Brayden Iose in a Wellington-Hawke’s Bay-Manawatu lose forward trio. 

  • By Kevin McCarthy 

It’s penultimate round time, and everything to play for.  Even 11 v 12 (Moana Pasifika v Waratahs) could still have a bearing on who finishes where, or nowhere.

Of course, having the Canes going so well this season may colour my perceptions, but this feels like the best-yet iteration of the competition in its current, well, iteration.

Australian sides have definitely, generally, bought a bit more starch to the contests, and no-one can really discount the two Pasifika sides. Quite possibly as well the actual quality of the New Zealand teams has slipped back a bit, relatively.

From our partisan view, the killer question is who would you like to win from the Blues versus Crusaders? I know that the table toppers versus the southern strugglers should on paper be a foregone conclusion.

But it won’t be. This is the last Last Stand, and against the oldest foe.

The Blues will want this win naturally – while the stakes for the Crusaders are obvious.

Personally, I’m going to back the Red and Blacks. If the Hurricanes can overcome their own stiff challenge tonight against the Chiefs – then they can regain top spot with just the Highlanders  to go. Home advantage all the way is priceless.

The Hurricanes fans should not worry that they would wind up hosting the Crusaders in a quarterfinal. Indeed, that might not happen, as the Crusaders really need Fijian Drua to implode in their final two games to get through.

As for whether the Saders can win? Well, it’s not impossible, just not something you would bet on.  We’ve forgotten it quickly, but the Hurricanes had to struggle mightily to get across the line this season in Christchurch.

The Crusaders – along with the Hurricanes – top the table for bonus points this season. BPs are a sign either of a lot of close losses, or a few of those, and a few blowouts to the good. Also known as occasionally putting your fans through an emotional wringer.


As I’ve said before, the soft playoff criteria of top 8 making it through is in fact a strength, not a weakness of the competition.

Entering the second to last round, just one team – the Waratahs – is without a hope.

Moana Pasifika sit next, and still have a very slim chance of the playoffs.

We’ve already mentioned the Crusaders, of course, who are no doubt now huge fans of how big the last-chance saloon is.

But  if you work your way up the table, every team has an incentive to keep going hard – even if the top four has achieved official escape from the gravitational pull of the other eight.

A top four playoff system would mean these last two rounds would now be meaningless – which if you want to get eyeballs on the competition and revenue, would seem to be needless self-amputation.

There is of course no promotion / relegation system in play to create interest at the bottom of the competition, nor any qualifier spots for other supra-competitions, a la football’s premiership.

And if you’re still wringing your hands, well, just to remind you that the fact of qualifying outside the top four means your chances of lasting much more than one more weekend is very small.


The Hurricanes side to take on the Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday at 7:05pm

  1. Xavier Numia
  2. Raymond Tuputupu
  3. Pasilio Tosi
  4. Justin Sangster
  5. Isaia Walker-Leawere
  6. Devan Flanders – 50th Game
  7. Peter Lakai
  8. Brayden Iose
  9. TJ Perenara
  10. Brett Cameron
  11. Kini Naholo
  12. Jordie Barrett (C)
  13. Billy Proctor
  14. Josh Moorby
  15. Ruben Love
  16. James O’Reilly
  17. Pouri Rakete-Stones
  18. Tevita Mafileo
  19. Caleb Delany
  20. Te Kamaka Howden
  21. Richard Judd
  22. Peter Umaga-Jensen
  23. Salesi Rayasi

Unavailable: Asafo Aumua, Jacob Devery, Cam Roigard, Tyrel Lomax, Brad Shields, Du’Plessis Kirifi

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