The Press

Canes can’t afford to freeze in Canberra

- HAMISH BIDWELL

Sudden death can do funny things to teams.

You might say ‘it’s only the Brumbies’ and with reasonable justificat­ion. But this is still a Super Rugby quarterfin­al away from home, in potentiall­y difficult conditions against a franchise with a title-winning pedigree.

The Hurricanes lost 52-10 they last time they rocked up to GIO Stadium too, so plotting a course towards a semifinal in Johannesbu­rg and beyond would be rather premature. No matter how much better than the Brumbies the Hurricanes might be.

‘‘Logistical­ly and operationa­lly all that stuff goes on behind the scenes,’’ Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said of any potential planning for a semifinal.

‘‘As far as the team’s concerned we have only one focus and we have only one discussion and that’s around the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night. What’ll be will be after that.

‘‘It’s playoffs football, it’s knockout football; everybody knows that you get to come to work on another Monday or you go home.’’

Boyd’s been able to pick a good team, with two notable additions from the team that beat the Crusaders 31-22 last week. Beauden Barrett is back at first five-eighth, after a sinus infection forced him out late, while captain Dane Coles is on the bench and ready to play his first football since being concussed on March 18.

Jordie Barrett will again partner Ngani Laumape in midfield, after regular centre Vince Aso was left in Wellington to recover from a minor groin tear.

‘‘He’ll run tomorrow and run Saturday morning and, depending on the outcome of our game and depending on how his run at home goes on Saturday morning, he’ll either catch a plane to join us or he won’t,’’ said Boyd of Aso.

‘‘There’s a couple of factors in that, but we’re reasonably optimistic he’s tracking in the right deirection.’’

Not least among those factors is the Lions getting past the Sharks. Boyd and coaching partner John Plumtree used to coach the Sharks and have a sneaky feeling their old mob might do them a favour.

If the Hurricanes were to beat the Brumbies and the Sharks tipped over the Lions, then Aso could stay home and wait for a semifinal at Westpac Stadium.

In the meantime, Aso’s absence means another run at fullback for Nehe Milner-Skudder. After two injury-ravaged seasons the former All Black is getting better with every outing and spent quite a lot of Saturday’s Crusaders clash at first-receiver.

It’s common for teams to play twin pivots, meaning the first-five on one side of a ruck and fullback on the other. But against the Crusaders Milner-Skudder was at first-receiver from set pieces, which is more unusual.

‘‘That option to bring the 15 up and use Beaudy [Barrett] as the second set of hands - and a decision-making one - further out was designed for the Crusaders specifical­ly and that’s not a defensive pattern that we see in the Brumbies. We’ll attack them slightly differentl­y than that,’’ Boyd said.

Temperatur­es at GIO Stadium are predicted to hit minus-2 on Friday night, prompting the Hurricanes to have an additional Wednesday night training run.

Dew, among other things, undid them when they first met the Crusaders in May and the team want to gauge how slippery the ground in Canberra becomes in the cold.

 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ?? Golf fans watch action on the fourth tee during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championsh­ip at Royal Birkdale, which starts tonight.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES Golf fans watch action on the fourth tee during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championsh­ip at Royal Birkdale, which starts tonight.
 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Hurricanes captain Dane Coles will be back in action on Friday.
GETTY IMAGES Hurricanes captain Dane Coles will be back in action on Friday.

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