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Hurricanes ride knock-out rugby momentum

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/08/2016

Coach Chris Boyd believes the Hurricanes will head in the Super Rugby final with a greater head of steam than a year ago.

Last July, Boyd saw his side miss out on the title as they fell the underdog Highlanders 21-14 in Wellington.

This year, the Hurricanes again headed into the play-offs as the No.1 seeds and will once more have home advantage when they face Lions in the championship decider on Saturday night.

But Boyd says the two campaigns are completely different and he points to how the Hurricanes were runaway leaders during the 2015 regular season.

In the expanded 2016 competition, a fiercely-contest New Zealand conference meant they didn't seal the overall top spot until the last weekend, having won five games on the trot after a defeat to the Sharks.

"If we go back to when we lost against the Sharks and came back home, I think we've been playing knock-out football since then," he said.

"So we've been playing knock-out football for a long time now and are getting pretty good at it. Last year, we didn't have the luxury of that momentum."

Boyd has named a virtually unchanged line-up from the one that started the 25-9 semi-final win over the Chiefs, with injured skipper Danes Coles again bracketed with Ricky Riccitelli.

The All Blacks hooker, who is nursing a rib complaint, was named to play against the Chiefs, but ended up sitting out the match.

The Lions will have their captain, Springbok No.8 Warren Whiteley, back from a calf injury in the only change to their starting 15.

Both teams are hunting their debut title and a key match-up could be at first five-eighth, with the Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett and opposite number Elton Jantjies both in excellent form.

"I think they're different, but they both have capable skills," Boyd said.

"He [Jantjies] is a quality player and his confidence will be very high after the last couple of weeks."

While the Hurricanes are favourites, Boyd cautions against showing the Lions any lack of respect.

The Johannesburg-based club are the competition's top try-scorers and they got to the final by putting out the Crusaders and the Highlanders, racking up more than 40 points both times.

"They've scored a huge number of points this year and dispatched two New Zealand sides in the last two weeks," Boyd said.

"Clearly their set piece is going to be a key factor, especially if it's going to get wet."

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