Now might be a good time to roll out the second-stringers.
Barring a series of calamities, the Hurricanes and Chiefs are set to meet two weeks in a row. But it’s only the second game that counts, when the Hurricanes appear set to host the Chiefs in a Super Rugby quarterfinal.
Given the Hurricanes’ season isn’t on the line at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium on Friday, coach Chris Boyd could be forgiven if he opts to hold back a few of his better tactics and personnel.
“The other thing that is possible is that, if we were successful in Hamilton, which we haven’t been terribly often in the last few years, but if we were successful in Hamilton, we might not play the Chiefs again,” Boyd said, just to muddy the waters further.
The Jaguares, Lions and Highlanders are outside chances to end up at Westpac Stadium instead.
The main thing for the Hurricanes is to remain fourth and to at least get one playoff game at home. In 2015 playing at home got them to the final. The following season it helped them win a title. Last year, though, their playoff games were in Canberra and then Johannesburg, where the Lions knocked them out at the semifinal stage.
“My understanding of the combination of permutations is that they [the Chiefs] will need to win [on Friday] with a bonus point, deny us a bonus point and win with a margin of 44,” said Boyd.
And without first five-eighth Damian McKenzie, whose final All Blacks-prescribed rest week has been left to the last.
he simple thing for the Hurricanes will be to try and win, and win well. As they did in beating the Blues 42-24 on Saturday.
After three losses on the trot, the result and the quality of the performance had both been important.
“We needed to win for the log point of view, but we needed to play well for our momentum heading into the playoffs,” Boyd said.
“You don’t very often be successful in playoffs coming from bad performances and suddenly get better in playoff time. You take your momentum with you, so that [Blues win] was crucial.
The most convincing Hurricanes performance of this campaign was probably the 25-13 win over the Chiefs in April. The 29-19 home win over the Crusaders looks useful on paper, but the visitors lost both Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty to early head knocks.
The Chiefs had all their influential players on deck, though, and put the Hurricanes under sustained periods of pressure. But a touch of genuine grit, plus brilliant long range tries from wing Ben Lam and first five-eighth Beauden Barrett, and finally second five-eighth Ngani Laumape off a Barrett crosskick, got the hosts home.
More of the same over the next fortnight would be entirely welcome.