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Super Rugby streak has NZ teams on edge

AAP logoAAP 17/05/2018 Daniel Gilhooly

© David Rogers/Getty Images Mental warfare has become a part of trans-TasmanĀ games, providing an intriguing backdrop to the Super Rugby season.

It's a scenario that will play out again when the Hurricanes meet the Queensland Reds.

The two teams at polar ends on the form scale meet in Wellington on Friday, with the home side firmly favoured to notch a 10th straight win and stretch New Zealand's dominance over Australian sides to 40 successive matches.

The youthful Reds are coming off a 63-28 thumping from the cellar-dwelling Sunwolves and are given little hope of ending an inter-conference streak which Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd believes has infiltrated the mindset of players.

And he doesn't just mean from the Australian teams.

"They (Reds) will be pretty keen to be the team that breaks it but no New Zealand team wants to be the team that finally falls," he said.

"Any of those streaks always carry a bit of psychological stuff in the background."

Reds captain Scott Higginbotham remembers fondly when the imbalance was minimal.

In 2015 he was part of a Rebels side who knocked over the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues.

Higginbotham says the Australians can physically match anything their trans-Tasman foe throw at them.

The difference is they are playing second fiddle psychologically, he said, underlined by the Crusaders' stunning 31-29 comeback win over the Waratahs last week.

© Daniel Pockett/Getty Images "I don't think we need to be tougher. I know the blokes in the team are tough and they can match it with the Kiwi sides," Higginbotham said.

"But it's knowing you can win those games.

"The Crusaders showed that on the weekend, it doesn't matter if they're 29 points down. They've got the belief that they can win and they were able to do it."

Higginbotham says falling to the Sunwolves the week after a compelling win over the Lions emphasised the inexperience in the Reds squad.

He believes they have the capacity to lift against a Hurricanes side who have tallied 46 tries this season and also boast the stingiest defence in the competition.

Shutting down five-eighth Beauden Barrett's time and space is the Reds' primary objective, which could stymie a star-studded backline.

One potential Hurricanes chink is the inclusion of Peter Umaga-Jensen on debut as All Blacks inside centre Ngani Laumape is rested.

Umaga-Jensen, 20, is the nephew of former All Blacks captain and Blues coach Tana Umaga.

He has beaten twin brother Thomas in the race to wear a Super Rugby jersey, with the latter in the Highlanders team but having been sidelined all season with injury.

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