Durban lapse ignites Hurricanes season

The Hurricanes have identified a lapse in off-field discipline in Durban as the spark which ignited their table-topping Super Rugby campaign.

Five straight wins since a disastrous loss to the Sharks in early May lifted the Hurricanes to top qualifying spot for the play-offs, beginning with Saturday’s quarter-final against the same opponents.

Halfback TJ Perenara says the listless 32-15 defeat in Durban was one of the season’s lowest points, contending with the opening-round 52-10 hammering from the Brumbies as their worst performance.

Five players were dropped for the following game against the Queensland Reds for disciplinary reasons, having broken an evening curfew during the previous week in Durban.

All Blacks Julian and Ardie Savea, No.8 Victor Vito and Cory Jane were the punished players, along with prop Chris Eves.

While their misdemeanour was a small one, Perenara says the management’s hard-line stance has paid dividends.

“A few of the boys regretted decisions that happened,” he said.

“But we learned from it, we’ve become stronger as a team and it brought us together a little bit, I guess.

“We all talked about it and we know the mistakes we made.”

Assistant coach John Plumtree says the players realised they let themselves down in the Durban week, coming off a 33-point thumping of the Lions a week earlier.

They haven’t made the mistake since of taking opponents for granted.

“It was pretty clear that we didn’t prepare well and that mirrored the performance,” he said.

“We think we’re better than we were when we were in South Africa as a team. We’re a tighter unit.

“But it’s knock-out rugby and there’s different pressures.”

Plumtree, a long-serving former Sharks coach, warned the South Africans are better than their eighth seeding suggests and expects them to try to mimic their winning methods of 10 weeks ago.

On that occasion they flummoxed the Hurricanes with their physical defence and contesting of the breakdown.

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