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Hurricanes brace for giant Chiefs step-up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/03/2017

From the outhouse to the penthouse, the Hurricanes know Super Rugby is about to get real.

A clash with the unbeaten Chiefs in Hamilton will have "State of Origin" intensity, according to Hurricanes assistant coach Richard Watt, and will be in a different sphere to what they have encountered in the opening fortnight.

The defending champions totted up 24 tries in squashing the Sunwolves 83-17 and the Rebels 71-6.

The Chiefs, by contrast, have emerged victorious in fierce New Zealand Conference derbies against the Highlanders (24-15) and Blues (41-26).

Watt says everything changes this week.

"These home derbies have become State of Origin-type games, haven't they? They're pretty brutal," he said.

"Our conference is so competitive. The boys love these home games and they hate losing to each other."

Watt says while it seems the Chiefs have had the better preparation, he backs their intense training sessions to have them ready for increased physicality.

"We do a lot of things under pressure. It's 15-on-15 and it's pretty intense on certain days."

Pack specialist Watt watched with interest as the Chiefs scrum held sway against the Blues last weekend.

He described the Chiefs set piece, anchored by fringe All Blacks props Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, as a "mongrel scrum", making that facet a key area for his team.

Mobile prop Loni Uhila is expected to be available after overcoming a calf injury while veteran All Blacks winger Cory Jane has shaken off a neck problem.

Watt confirmed lock Vaea Fifita (ankle) is not likely to play until April, while medical staff are still assessing a shoulder injury to Blade Thomson which could rule the No.8 out for the season.

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