In-form Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara will prove a constant menace for the Reds' shaky defence in Brisbane on Sunday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Perenara's opportunistic effort against the Waratahs moved him onto five tries for the season – only Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo has scored more.
Despite Perenara's best efforts, the Hurricanes fell to their first defeat of the season. In contrast, the Reds head into Sunday's match after defeating the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein for their first victory in seven attempts.
The positives were there for the Reds – they dominated territory and possession, created a number of try-scoring opportunities, while their defence kept the Cheetahs relatively quiet over the course of 80 minutes – but the table-topping Hurricanes will provide a very different prospect to the injury-ravaged Cheetahs.
Canes coach Chris Boyd has decided against resting a number of key players, instead opting to field an almost full-strength lineup as they look to recover from their first setback this season.
To make matters worse for the hosts, the Reds have been forced to travel further for this home match than the Hurricanes – hardly ideal preparations. Injuries have also forced a couple of changes as Curtis Browning (knee) and Karmichael Hunt (adductor) have been ruled out of the game.
Adam Korczyk will make his starting debut at blindside flanker, in place of Browning. The injury to Hunt has forced a reshuffle among the backs, with Lachie Turner shifting from wing to fullback, Chris Feauai-Sautia going from outside centre to the right wing and Anthony Fainga’a brought back into the starting side at inside centre.
The Hurricanes have made just two changes for this one, both among the backs. Matt Proctor replaces Cory Jane on the wing, while Tom Marshall starts at fullback in place of Nehe Milner-Skudder, who is ruled out with a calf injury.
Despite languishing near the foot of the table, the Reds have a number of individuals capable of causing damage to the log-leaders. The duel between Conrad Smith and Samu Kerevi is worth keeping an eye on, as is the breakdown battle between Ardie Savea and Liam Gill.
The Hurricanes boast an impressive record in this fixture, winning 10 of the last 12 meetings between the sides. Given recent form, there is little to suggest that record won't be extended this weekend.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Hurricanes 12, Reds 6
In Brisbane: Reds 4, Hurricanes 4
STATS AND FACTS
– The Reds are aiming for back-to-back victories for the first time since June last year. Since then, they have lost nine of 11.
– The Hurricanes have won 10 of the last 12 clashes between the sides.
– The Hurricanes equalled their club record for consecutive victories (seven) until defeat to the Waratahs in round 10 but have not lost consecutive matches since March 2014.
– Only the Bulls (27.3) have averaged more points than the Hurricanes (27) this season. The Reds have scored the fewest, an average of 12.3.
– The Reds’ try difference is -13 so far, compared to +14 by the Canes.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Reds||Lachlan Turner (20)||Samu Kerevi, Jake Schatz, Marco Kotze, Lachlan Turner (2)||Lachlan Turner (442)||Adam Thomson (90)|
|Hurricanes||Beauden Barrett (81)||Julian Savea, TJ Perenara (5)||Julian Savea (571)||Brad Shields (96)|
Reds – 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Faagase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Chris Kuridrani.
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Callum Gibbins, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19. Mark Abbott, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Cory Jane.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images