LIVE: Hurricanes blown away by incredible Chiefs start

LIVE: Hurricanes blown away by incredible Chiefs start

HURRICANES (1) vs CHIEFS (4) in Wellington, Saturday 2.35pm kickoff AEST

The Hurricanes have been boosted by the returns of Tyrel Lomax and Ruben Love to offset the loss of standout prop Xavier Numia.

Numia tore his calf in the quarter-final win over the Rebels but prop Lomax (ankle) and fullback Love (knee) return to the starting lineup against the Chiefs.

“The Rebels really came out and took it to us with their physicality which is what we had expected,” Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw said.

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“We obviously have a lot of empathy toward their players, staff and fans. The Chiefs will provide another tough challenge for us, and one we are really excited for.”

Laidlaw has powered up with six forwards on his bench, leaving just Richard Judd and Bailyn Sullivan to cover the backs.

Captain Brad Shields also returns to the starting lineup with Jordie Barrett relieved of the official leadership duties.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have named an unchanged team from the one that blitzed the Reds in the quarter-finals.

“Our key focus is accuracy and discipline,” Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said.

“We improved significantly against the Reds, and that alone enabled us to play the type of game we know we have always been capable of playing. It is also encouraging that we have a fit and fresh squad who are chomping at the bit, and for the first time this year, we are able to name an unchanged matchday 23.”

The clash looks closer than their respective first and fourth seedings.

The Chiefs scored 28 points in the first 23 minutes of their quarter-final against the Reds while the Hurricanes took 25 minutes to score their first points against the Rebels.

A repeat of those starts could be lethal for the Hurricanes.

The Chiefs have reached the semi-finals in each of the last two years and the final last year which they lost narrowly to the Crusaders.

That’s another advantage over the Hurricanes who lost to the Brumbies in the quarter-finals in 2022 and 2023.

But the Hurricanes have been transformed this season under new coach Clark Laidlaw, a former sevens mentor who has given full licence to their attacking style.

They have made the pace in the competition through most of the season, finishing the regular season atop the table.

They will have to be faultless again on Saturday to advance to their first final since 2016.

The Hurricanes beat the Chiefs twice during the regular season and also will take some confidence from those matches.

“The Hurricanes have set the pace in this year’s competition, have earned the right to get the home advantage through the finals and will be formidable opposition again in front of a large home crowd,” McMillan said.

“They are a well balanced team, riding high on confidence. They will be a tough nut to crack as we have already experienced twice this year.”

HURRICANES (1-15): Pouri-Rakete-Stones, Asafo Aumua, Tyrel Lomax, Justin Sangster, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Brad Shields (c), Peter Lakai, Brayden Iose, TJ Perenara, Brett Cameron, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett, Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love

Reserves: James O’Reilly, Tevita Mafileo, Pasilio Tosi, James Tucker, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Richard Judd, Bailyn Sullivan

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Dyer, Jimmy Tupou, Tupou Vaa’i, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson (c), Wallace Sititi, Cortez Ratima, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Anton Lienert-Brown, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

Reserves: Bradley Slater, Jared Proffit, Reuben O’Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Simon Parker, Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Daniel Rona

Referee: Angus Gardner

ODDS: Hurricanes $1.60, Chiefs $2.25.

HISTORY

The Chiefs have won 20 of their 35 previous meetings with the Hurricanes, but have lost the last two after winning each of the previous five.

The Hurricanes finished strong to claim a 36-23 win when they met in Wellington in round eight but it took a clutch kick from Brett Cameron to snatch a much tighter 20-17 victory when they played in Hamilton in round 13.

The Hurricanes haven’t won a semi-final since 2016.

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