The Highlanders' recovery this season has been impressive with three consecutive wins after their three losses against last year's semifinalists. But the challenge now comes against a powerhouse Hurricanes outfit. Get your TICKETS HERE.
The Hurricanes travel south knowing that of their last 12 games against the Highlanders, they have won 10, their last four in succession and one short of achieving their best run against them in Super Rugby history.
All is not lost for the home team, however. The Highlanders have shown their attacking qualities by scoring more than 40 points in their last three games, and if they can do that against the Hurricanes, it would represent a record.
Halfback Aaron Smith's contribution to the side's attacking impetus has been to provide 10 try assists, twice as many as another player in the competition.
They have backed their attack with defensive effect, having made dominant contact on 10.7 tackles per game, second only to the Crusaders (11.3) this year. But missed tackles have the Highlanders last among all teams at 33.3 per game, while the Hurricanes are fifth at 23.3.
The Highlanders will need to maintain their dominant tackles because, across the competition, the Hurricanes are ranked first in average points per game with 40.5 (Highlanders fourth - 31.2), tries 5.7 (second – 4.5), line breaks 8.7 (11th – 3.8) defenders beaten 30.3 (12th - 17.2), offloads 13.8 (9th – 8.2), turnovers won 7.0 (7th – 5.2) and ruck success 96.7 per cent (3rd – 95.7).
The Hurricanes are also second in carry metres with 881.5 compared to 658.2, the lowest among all teams, and in carries overall, the Hurricanes have 130.3 (second) to 100.7 (last) by the southerners.
The Highlanders lead the competition for tackles per game with 176.5, while the Hurricanes are seventh with 149. They are third for scrum success at 95.1, while the Hurricanes are sixth at 93.0. Both could still do better in lineouts, with the Hurricanes fourth on an 88.6 per cent success rate and the Highlanders 10th on 83.3 per cent.
The Highlanders concede fewer penalties fractionally, with 9.8 per cent (fourth) to 10.5 by the Hurricanes (fifth).
Round 7 is a shortened round in Super Rugby with four teams enjoying a well-deserved bye.
The action kicks off on Friday night with the Crusaders hosting Moana Pasifika in Christchurch for the first time. Get your TICKETS HERE.
Despite not recording a victory yet in 2023, Moana Pasifika have not been far off the pace and will take inspiration from Fijian Drua’s win over the Crusaders back in round three.
Later on Friday night, the Queensland Reds host the high-flying ACT Brumbies in Brisbane. The Reds sit just outside of the top eight and will be hoping to upset the lads from the Australian Capital and move back into the playoff mixer.
Saturday kicks off with the Highlanders against the Hurricanes at 7.05pm at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The final game of round four emanates from AAMI Stadium in Melbourne where the Rebels take on the Blues. Tune in at 9.35pm on Sky Sport to see if the Blues can pick up their fourth win of the season.