The Daily Minion previews...Hurricanes vs. Crusaders
The Hurricanes will be faced with a big ask as they take on the Crusaders in tonight's Super 12 semi-final. The going will be difficult, and it won't be easy. But if they remain focused, and find some way to negate the Crusaders' superiority on the scoreboard, they have a good chance of coming away with a positive result. Scoring more points than the opposition is usually key in these knockout contests, and if the Hurricanes can remain ahead for the whole game, an upset could be possible.
Hurricanes captain Tana Umaga says that, while he doesn't want to seem overconfident, he's quietly confident going into tonight's match. "We know we need to play well. But the boys are focused on what they need to do, and if we achieve our objectives, we're quietly confident of a good outcome", he says.
Crusaders halfback Justin Marshall says the Crusaders will have the utmost respect for their opposition tonight. "The Hurricanes are definitely a tougher team than most" he admits. "Though, having said that, any team is tougher than most".
Both Umaga and Marshall agree that the team that plays for the full 80 minutes will be more likely to come out on top. "To win the game you need to have the ball - and that means being on the field", explains Marshall. "The side that can achieve that consistently will have the advantage".
For the young, inexperienced members of the Hurricanes, this is their first Super 12 semi-final, with the added pressure that it's their first experience of the big time. That could be a factor if the game heats up, turns into a pressure cooker, or goes down to the wire.
A lot of pre-game speculation has centred on the opposing teams' lineups, but this has been mainly just speculation. Hurricanes flanker Jerry Collins is still recovering from an arm amputation suffered at training last week, but coach Colin Cooper would not rule out him making an appearance from the substitutes' bench.
Tactics have been another hotly-debated area ahead of the match. Cooper insisted that the whiteout blizzard conditions predicted for Christchurch tonight would not have an undue effect on the Hurricane's attacking philosophy. "We'll be looking to play to the conditions" he revealed. "But we won't be letting them affect our style of play".
Almost 30,000 fans are expected at Jade Stadium for tonight's big match, and if things turn out as many pundits are predicting, they'll see a game of rugby being played.