Smith has note of caution for Hurricanes

Finding reasons to worry is easier said than done at Hurricanes headquarters this season.

Captain Conrad Smith reckons he’s unearthed two.

The Super Rugby leaders host the ninth-placed Crusaders in Wellington, a match the visitors would normally start as favourites given their ongoing success.

Not so on Saturday, when a Hurricanes team boasting eight wins from nine face opponents who are five from 10 and struggling for the consistency expected from their All Blacks-laden roster.

The match marks the start of a closing stretch of six New Zealand derby games in their last seven for the Hurricanes, something Smith is keen to highlight.

Their 42 per cent all-time winning record against Kiwi opposition pales compared to games against Australian (58 per cent) and South African (56 per cent) foes.

“All derby games, there’s always a little bit more on the line,” he said.

“We’re certainly excited about it but we’re not in any way forgetting how much more work we’ve got to do.

“We know there are few Kiwi teams licking their lips at the chance of getting a crack at us.”

The veteran Test centre’s other concern can best be exemplified by the Crusaders’ struggles this year.

It is rugby’s version of the tall poppy syndrome, he says, where other teams lift to knock over the top dog.

He reckons the Crusaders regularly suffer from that phenomenon because of their seven titles and a remarkable run of reaching the play-offs every season since 2001.

Smith suspects his high-flying team will face similar challenges.

“In some ways you can be a victim of your own success.

“Big teams are always gunning for them (Crusaders) because they’ve been such a good team for so long.”

Smith believes the Crusaders will barely be affected by the absence of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

The veteran flanker is ruled out with a head knock suffered in last week’s win over the Blues and will be replaced by classy backup Matt Todd.

The Hurricanes field two starting changes from their 35-19 win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, restoring slippery fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder and All Blacks winger Cory Jane.

Key forwards Dane Coles (elbow) and Blade Thomson (concussion) both return via the reserve bench after more than a month of rehabilitation.

Boyd says All Blacks hooker Coles has trained fully for the last two weeks but is on the bench as a precaution.

Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Callum Gibbins, James Broadhurst, Jeremy Thrush, Ben Franks, Motu Matu’u, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Dane Coles, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Chris Eves, Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson, Chris Smylie, Matt Proctor, James Marshall.


v NZ teams: won 42, drawn 5, lost 52 (42.4 winning percentage)

v Australian teams: 42-0-30 (58.3)

v South African teams: 47-1-36 (55.9)

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