Hurricanes v Chiefs – 5.35pm (AEST), Friday, June 9 @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington
The Storyline: The majority of the rugby public have switched their attention to the Lions tour, but the sole match on the Super Rugby schedule this weekend will have major implications on the finals picture. The winner will likely snare fifth spot and head to Canberra in week one of the playoffs to take on the Brumbies, while the loser is odds-on to finish sixth or seventh with an assignment in South Africa to follow. Such is the fate of the heavyweight Kiwi sides that don’t take out the conference title in a skewed Super Rugby format.
The Stat: Twelve of the teams’ past 16 clashes have been decided by eight points or less. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have 22 of their last 27 games at home.
— Chiefs Rugby (@ChiefsRugby) June 8, 2017
It’s a Big Game For: Controversially snubbed by the All Blacks selectors, Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie has the opportunity to make a big statement on Friday night – by outplaying Jordie Barrett, the Super Rugby rookie who was effectively chosen ahead of him in the squad for the Lions series. Similarly, World Cup hero Nehe Milner-Skudder will be after an eye-catching performance after being overlooked by Hansen and co.
Damian McKenzie not being in the All Blacks squad is a crime
— Nick (@NickSkovron) June 8, 2017
The Verdict: This should be an absolute belting derby between two genuine title contenders, with plenty at stake and a plethora of big names on display. The injury-hit Chiefs have the edge in the forwards – despite Brodie Retallick’s withdrawal – but the Hurricanes’ electric backline just shades their opponents’ talented contingent. There’s mouth-watering match-ups across the park, but the defending champs’ outstanding home record should see them eke out the win. Hurricanes by 5
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) June 8, 2017