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Hurricanes hookers cleared to face Chiefs
July 3, 2014

The Hurricanes have overcome their hooking crisis with Dane Coles and Ash Dixon cleared to face the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Friday.

Coles came through the team's main training run without further damage to his bruised calf, while Dixon was passed fit to take his place on the bench after a shoulder injury. The third hooker, Motu Matu'u, was ruled out by a shoulder injury. Coach Mark Hammett had previously left two blank spaces in his team list for what could be the Canes' last game of the Super Rugby season.

The season of both teams effectively rests on the result: a draw or loss will leave the fifth-placed Hurricanes vulnerable next week, when they sit out a final-round bye; defeat for the ninth-placed Chiefs will virtually ensure they won't win a third successive title.

Hammett says the fact the game could be the last of their season - and of his tenure before he leaves for Cardiff - hasn't been a factor in the Hurricanes' preparation. He has urged his players not to get carried away by what is at stake, saying they should focus on the adherence to the basics that carried them to a 16-9 defeat of the Crusaders last weekend.

Beauden Barrett says the players are determined not to blow their hard work after fighting back from a forgettable opening to their campaign.

"After three losses right at the start, we were really under the pump," Barrett said. "To be in this situation now, we've got a great opportunity. Emotionally, we're going to be up for it. It's just about doing the basics well and the intensity will be there."

The Hurricanes bounced back from their faltering start to win eight of their next 12 games, in contrast to the Chiefs, who triumphed in their first three matches before winning just three wins from the next 11.

Barrett said the Chiefs were playing better than their recent form suggests. "They look like a side that's just about to jump out of the box and start clicking again."

The Hurricanes are without two of their best players against the Chiefs, both forced off in the early stages of the 16-9 win over the Crusaders.

No.8 Victor Vito (calf) has been replaced by flanker Jack Lam, pushing Brad Shields to the back of the scrum, while inside centre Alapati Leiua (ankle) makes way for Hadleigh Parkes. Lam and openside Ardie Savea will form a mobile, if undersized, flanker combination, while Parkes forms a patched-up midfield alongside Tim Bateman, playing at centre in the ongoing absence of injured captain Conrad Smith.

Vito, Leiua and Smith might be available if the Hurricanes reach the play-offs

The Hurricanes need a bonus-point victory to guarantee a finish in the top six, something they achieved when the teams last met: they scored six tries in a 45-8 romp in Wellington on May 24.

Hurricanes: Matt Proctor; Cory Jane, Tim Bateman, Hadleigh Parkes, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Jack Lam; Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush (captain); Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Chris Eves, Reggie Goodes, James Broadhurst, Adam Hill, Chris Smylie, Cardiff Vaega, James Marshall.

© AAP
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