By: Scott McGlynn
The 2015 Super 15 rugby season reaches its climax this Saturday with the final being a New Zealand affair as the Wellington Hurricanes take on the Otago Highlanders at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium. With both sides aiming for their first ever Super Rugby title an exciting and bruising game is on the cards.
The Hurricanes finished the regular season top of the Super 15 table and go into the final as favourites and with the benefit of home advantage. In last weeks semi-final against the ACT Brumbies, the Hurricanes potent attacking back line were simply to strong for the Australian side with the Hurricanes running out 29-9 winners to secure their place in their first Super Rugby final since 2006. The top try scorers in this year’s tournament, the Hurricanes base their game on offensively dominating their opponents and will look to continue this trend in Saturday’s final against the Highlanders. In what will be the last Super Rugby games for the centre pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, the Hurricanes will be aiming to end their Wellington careers on a high.
The Highlanders finished the regular season in fourth place which left them a qualifier and semi-final to navigate en-route to the final. Overcoming fellow New Zealanders the Waikato Chiefs in the qualifier, the Highlanders then travelled to Sydney to take on the 2014 Super Rugby winners the New South Wales Waratahs. The Highlanders put in a ruthless performance to see off the error prone Waratahs 35-17 and seal their first Super Rugby final appearance in 16 years. Having overcome the odds in the semi-final in Sydney, the partisan Wellington crowd will hold no fear for the Highlanders as they look to edge out the Hurricanes.
Although both sides have exciting backlines the final may well be won and lost upfront. Both sets of forwards will look to ensure a decent supply of good quick ball to best utilise their offensive backs. Discipline will be key as both packs look to gain the upper hand and South African referee Jaco Peyper may well be in for a busy evening.
Both teams feature a number of All Blacks but you can be assured that national allegiances will be put aside in the final. All Black’s coach Steve Hansen will be hoping that the final ends with no injuries concerns for the All Blacks as they look to this months Rugby Championship and then the task of defending their World Cup title in England later this year.
The Hurricanes are 1.4 (2/5) to become champions with the Highlanders a best priced 3.3 (23/10). To win in 80 minutes the Hurricanes are 1.44 (4/9) and the Highlanders 3.4 (12/5).