Position: equal 6th
Most Points: Jordie Barrett 42
Most Tries: Ben Lam 5
THE STORY SO FAR
Much as the Hurricanes might claim otherwise they were certainly affected by the late change of their head coach. Jason Holland had enjoyed a transitional relationship with John Plumtree ahead of his elevation to All Blacks coaching duties, and while they may have smoothed the path there was still evidence of dislocation. That was clear in Cape Town when the Hurricanes were scoreless in losing 0-27 to the Stormers. However, the turnaround was quickly achieved with their win in Buenos Aires over the Jaguares a not inconsequential result. That was reflected when they returned home to hang a 38-22 loss on the Sharks – their only defeat on their tour of Australiasia. A 62-15 thrashing of the Sunwolves in Napier followed before their 15-24 loss to the Blues. They turned that around with their last-minute 27-24 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.
While so quickly making up for their first loss in South Africa by beating the Jaguares 26-23, it was their achievement in returning home to take on the Sharks that stands out best. The travel factor alone was pressure enough, but having to cope with a side that had been in New Zealand for a fortnight was a challenge. But the mood was with the Hurricanes in what proved a highly memorable free-flowing contest where the home three-quarters had a field day. Locked 17-17 at the break, it was big wing Ben Lam who scored two tries in six minutes who put the kibosh on the Sharks. But Wes Goosen and Ngani Laumape were also among the try-scoring action with returning hooker Dane Coles throwing in the last for good measure.
They are probably still talking about Jordie Barrett's 60m penalty goal in Buenos Aires, but so far as Hurricanes' fans are concerned it is the all round element of his play that has been significant for the side. His ability to put the bad moments behind him has improved. How else could he go from villain with his late sin-binning against the Blues, to last-minute goal-kicking hero against the Chiefs? But his ability to not only field the ball in the rear but also bring it forward so effectively is why Ben Lam and Kobus van Wyk feature so high on the try-scoring list. He was well on the way to taking his career another step higher when the suspension of play came.
THE TASK AHEAD
Managing to consistently find the sort of continuity that undid the Sharks with the doggedness and determination that saw them beat the Chiefs would be the goal for the Hurricanes in future. In spite of their losses, most notably first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and a fair core of their forward pack, the Hurricanes have maintained the attacking ethos that has been part of the natural approach from teams from their region. That has contributed to their successes this year and makes them such a tough opponent on their day.
The performance of the Hurricanes pack has been crucial to the achievements they have enjoyed this season. Criticism in the past has centred on the vulnerability of their pack, but that hasn't been the case this year. Part of that is undoubtedly the foundation the front five give, with Tyrell Lomax a significant gain in the front row. Ability to compete consistently at the lineout is an absolute must and they have proved capable in this area while the scrum has also been a key part of the effort. The backs are the backs – dangerous, determined and devastating at all times.