PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round 11 - Part One
The day starts with twp massive contrasts – one of the tournament favourites in the Hurricanes, who has lost just once, and the winless Sunwolves stuck at the foot of the standings.
Hurricanes prop Ben May summed it up rather well, when he said the Sunwolves were capable of "random acts of greatness".
"It's hard to play against that and we're fully aware that if we're not on our game and doing things right, they'll open us up," May told stuff.co.nz.
The second match is between two teams with play-off aspirations, but both on a month-long losing streak.
We take a look at the Friday matches!
Friday, April 27:
Hurricanes v Sunwolves
(Westpac Stadium, Wellington- Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT; 16.35 Japan time)
When a bookmaker offers odds of one-to-1000 (for the Hurricanes) and 80-to-one (for the Sunwolves), then you know they are expecting a lopsided game.
However, there are players who will look at those odds and wish they could wager a few dollars on the outcome.
Hurricanes flyhalf Ihaia West – then running out for the Blues – had similar thoughts when they travelled to Tokyo last year.
They ran into an inspired Sunwolves outfit and suffered a humiliating 21-48 loss.
The Hurricanes will be reminded by West what can happen if you don't take the Sunwolves seriously.
"I did play that game and it wasn't one of my fondest memories," West told stuff.co.nz.
"They gave us a bit of a hiding," West said.
"They can really turn it on and that they turned it on that day, so we're definitely not taking them lightly and we're preparing just like any other game.
"They've got plenty of points in them.
"[Centre] Michael Little is a pretty outstanding player and with Tony Brown [assistant coach] and Jamie Joseph [head coach] there, they can definitely throw anything at you."
Under the coaching of the old Highlanders pair of Joseph and Brown, the Sunwolves possess a decent combination of grit and inventiveness.
Hurricanes prop Toby Smith said: "We know they're going to keep running at us for the full 80 minutes so it will be a good game."
2017: Hurricanes won 83-17, Tokyo
Prediction: The Hurricanes piled on an 83-17 defeat against the Sunwolves in their only previous encounter, that remains the Canes' biggest ever Super Rugby victory. The Hurricanes have won their last six games on the bounce; the last time they won more was a 10-game streak across the 2016 and 2017 campaigns which saw them lift the trophy in 2016. The Hurricanes have won their last 14 home games against teams from outside New Zealand, those victories coming by an average margin of 26 points. The Sunwolves have conceded just 19 first-half points across their last two games, their fewest ever in any two consecutive Super Rugby fixtures. The Sunwolves will again be searching for their maiden Super Rugby win away from home, having lost their last five away fixtures by an average margin of 35 points per game. The Hurricanes by 30 points or more.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Brad Shields (captain), 7 Ardie Savea/Sam Henwood, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 James O'Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Sunwolves: 15 William Tupou, 14 Hosea Saumaki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaka Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 James Moore, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Nikoloz Khataishvili, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Nick Briant
TMO: Ben Skeen
Stormers v Rebels
(Newlands Stadium, Cape Town – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT; 23.00 AEST)
It is not difficult to see the desperation in the Stormers camp.
However, they are facing a team just as desperate to end a losing streak.
Neither the Stormers, nor the Rebels have been in the winner's podium for a month – with three defeats and a bye blotting their campaigns since late March.
Stormers assistant coach Paul Treu said they can't fault the players on their efforts, but admitted mistakes have been the root cause of their demise.
"It is never easy when you come off a few defeats," Treu said, adding: "The margin for error at this level is very small.
"We are in a very difficult situation and everybody understands what needs to happen over the next couple of weeks."
Rebels scrumhalf Michael Ruru said they are just as 'desperate' to get reward for their effort.
He spoke of the need for "intensity" at Newlands.
"If you look at the best teams in the competition, they turn it on week in and week out," Ruru said.
"They don't have many flaws in their game.
"Everyone knows the Stormers are their best when they're at home," Ruru said.
"They grow an extra leg. It's going to be a tough game.
"We're going to look to exploit them in a few spots [and] the boys are looking forward to the challenge.
"It's going to take another full, 80-minute performance."
2016: Stormers won 57-31, Melbourne
2015: Stormers won 31-15, Cape Town
2013: Rebels won 30-21, Melbourne
2012: Stormers won 26-21, Cape Town
2011: Stormers won 40-3, Melbourne
Prediction: The Stormers have won four of their previous five encounters against the Rebels, including each of the last two. The Stormers have won 12 of their last 13 regular season games at home against teams visiting from outside South Africa, including each of their last seven such fixtures. The Rebels have won only one of 10 games away from home since the beginning of last season, with that sole win coming against the Sunwolves in Round 3 this season. The Stormers have enjoyed 17 minutes and 52 seconds of time in possession per game this season, the second most of any team (Blues – 18 minutes, 26 seconds). Sefanaia Naivalu makes an average gain of 13 metres per carry this season, the best of any player to have made at least five carries this season (26 carries, 338 metres). At Newlands, the Stormers should win by 15 points.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Johannes Engelbrecht, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Sarel Marais, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Tom English, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman (captain), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Sama Malolo, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Semisi Tupou, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Christie du Preez
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports