One win in New Zealand has upped the Sharks shares and forced a major rethink from the in-form Hurricanes ahead of the weekend’s Vodacom Super 14 showdown.
The Sharks, a team deserving more than just one win in four tour outings, stunned the champion Crusaders but could not land the knockout blow. They did not make the same mistake against a travel weary Highlanders and they easily put them away in the final 20 minutes.
Now the Hurricanes, also at the end of the long haul from South Africa, have reshuffled their match 22 and starting XV to try and avoid being on the receiving end of another Sharks bite.
Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has loaded his bench with forwards replacements, a sure sign of the respect they have for the Sharks pack, and entrusted fresh legs in the form of flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth to run the show at flyhalf.
The Canes, in the past, have done well on the road, only to come unstuck at home.
This weekend’s match is one of the trickiest in their campaign. They would have put a five point target on this match at the start of the season, but now would probably be happy just to come away with the win.
A second successive tour win would set the Sharks up nicely for a top seven finish, with their prospects of a semi-final probably already gone.
HURRICANES: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Lome Fa’atau, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Shannon Paku, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu; 8 Rodney So’oialo (c), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Luke Andrews, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Joe McDonnell. Subs: 16 Luke Mahoney, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Ross Kennedy, 19 Jason Eaton, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Brendan Haami, 22 Tamati Ellison.