The Hurricanes face another tough assignment when they host the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday.
Even though Super Rugby is still in its early stages, Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett is already feeling the heat as his side is the only one yet to register a victory.
The Canes are currently on an eight-match losing streak, stretching back to last season. Their 2014 campaign kicked off with away losses against the Sharks and Stormers and they came up short again with another below par performance in their home defeat to the Brumbies last weekend.
Apart from their poor start, the Hurricanes also have extra motivation to do well as their captain Conrad Smith is playing his 100th Super Rugby match for the franchise.
Hammett has brought highly-rated openside flanker Ardie Savea into his starting line-up for the first time this season. The 20-year-old's battle with in-form Cheetahs scavenger Boom Prinsloo for the loose ball could be decisive in deciding the outcome of this clash.
The Cheetahs will fancy their chances of adding to the home side's woes as their last visit to Wellington, in 2012, saw them produce a memorable 47-38 victory over the Hurricanes which was the Bloemfontein-based franchise's first triumph on New Zealand soil.
Last weekend, the Cheetahs left Brisbane empty-handed after they went down 43-33 to the Reds. After that defeat – their third in four matches – Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské has made some changes to his run-on side in a bid to return to the victory trail. Sarel Pretorius replaces Shaun Venter at scrumhalf, while Raymond Rhule has recovered from an ankle injury and will start on the left wing. Right wing Cornal Hendricks is favoured over Rayno Benjamin, and Willie le Roux is pushed to fullback.
Seven members of the Cheetahs' squad that won in Wellington two years ago, will be in action again this weekend – Le Roux, Johan Goosen, Philip van der Walt, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Andries Ferreira and Hennie Daniller.
However, the Hurricanes know they have the ability to claim victory. They secured a 39-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last year and in eight previous matches between these sides, the Canes have been victorious on five occasions and the Cheetahs three.
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 James Broadhurst, 20 Jack Lam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Marty Banks.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images