By: Scott McGlynn
Saturday sees the semi-final stage of the 2015 Super Rugby season with both games being trans-Tasman affairs with New Zealand teams the Wellington Hurricanes and the Otago Highlanders taking on the Australian ACT Brumbies and the New South Wales Waratahs.
The Hurricanes topped the regular season table by a 14 point margin and go into their semi-final against the Brumbies in Wellington as favourites. The Hurricanes base their game on offensively dominating their opponents, leading the competition in the number of tries scored and defenders beaten. The Brumbies come into the semi on the back of a fantastic result in last weekend’s quarter-final against the Stormers in Cape Town and will not be short of confidence. In recent years they have had the edge over the Hurricanes, winning their last four meetings and they will hope that this record continues after Saturday. They will look to try to dominate set-pieces and to stifle good ball for the Hurricanes with the aim of frustrating and curbing their offensive dominance. The Hurricanes are looking for their first ever Super Rugby title and will be hopeful that this year can finally be the year that the title eventually comes to New Zealand’s capital city.
In the other semi-final, the 2014 Champions the Warathahs face the Highlanders in Sydney. Both teams ended the regular season with similar records, the Highlanders eventually finished one point above the Warathahs – a close match is expected on Saturday. The Highlanders edged the Waikato Chiefs in their quarter-final last week and, like the Hurricanes, are looking for their first Super Rugby title. Despite having their best ever Super Rugby season, the Highlanders will need to be on the top of their game to overcome the Waratahs. With the benefit of a week off, the Waratahs will come into Saturday’s semi-final fully refreshed and fully focussed on aiming to reach their second successive final as they try to retain their title. Both sides like to attack so it may well come down to defence and discipline. The Waratahs have had discipline issues this season with 10 yellow cards and coach Michael Cheika will hoping that his players can keep a calm head and not hand the Highlanders any unnecessary advantage.
The Hurricanes are 1.33 (1/3) to overcome the Brumbies who are 3.25 (9/4). In the other semi-final, the Waratahs are 1.55 (11/20) to qualify with the Highlanders 2.5 (6/4). To win the Grand Final the Hurricanes are the 1.8 (4/5) favourites, with the Waratahs at 4 (3/1), the Highlanders at 6 (5/1) and the Brumbies are the outsiders of the four at 11 (10/1).