Preview: Hurricanes vs Brumbies

The Hurricanes return to the Cake Tin to face a side they have not beaten in four years.

After kicking off their campaign with a tour to South Africa, where they were unlucky to collect only one point, the men from Wellington must now host a Brumbies outfit that has won the last three clashes between these teams.

Despite the heart-breaking loss to the Stormers last week the Canes have plenty to feel positive about. Not many teams are unable to unlock the Stormers defence, and they scored two tries at Newlands, having kept the Springbok-laden Sharks honest a week earlier.

This is the first of two consecutive fixtures in Wellington – the Cheetahs are next up – so Mark Hammett's men have every reason to believe that better days are on the horizon.

The Brumbies will arrive in Wellington in a far more sombre mood following the news that David Pocock's season has been cut short for a second straight year. It's a massive blow for the Brumbies, who had already seen a sizable contingent of senior players leave during the off-season. They don't appear to have a specialist openside replacement for Pocock (Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler and Lachlan McCaffery are all more accustomed to blindside or No 8) and even if they did, it would hard to fill the boots of such a class act.

The Brumbies are already missing big No 8 Fotu Auelua, who is out for the first 10 weeks of the season, so their back-row stocks are running low. There has been speculation surrounding another Brumbies comeback from George Smith, who has just returned to Australia from a season in Japan, but his management have advised him to take a hard-earned break before heading off to France to start a contract with division-two club Lyon.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will be looking for a more consistent performance from his team this time out after blowing hot and cold last weekend. They crushed the Force for 25 minutes before going off the boil badly and missing out on a bonus point that was there for the taking.

So far this season, the Brumbies have the worst tackling success rate in the competition (81%). The Canberra side also concede the most turnovers, in total they have produced 41 errors thus far.

The Brumbies' kicking came must also be accurate as the Hurricanes' ability to strike from broken play was highlighted in South Africa.

The hosts have raised a few eyebrows by leaving Ardie Savea on the bench again. With injured loosies Brad Shields and Victor Vito still missing, one would have expected the Hurricanes to use Savea's explosiveness with ball in hand as a prime weapon. Expect him to test that Brumbies tackle-rate in the last quarter.

Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Adam Hill, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Marty Banks.

Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Pat McCabe, 23 Lionel Cronjé.

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Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

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