Friday Night Football - Highlanders v Hurricanes
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 12: Highlanders fans show their support during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 12, 2018 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The feature match of Super Rugby on Friday June 1, is a superb local derby. The Highlanders v Hurricanes fixture is the taking center-stage for Super Rugby, in the week ahead of the June International window.

It is the second placed New Zealand conference side versus the fourth, however there is less difference in personal and support. In a game of inches, fans know that no quarter will be given, in this traditional rivalry of ‘North v South’.

Friday Night Football – Highlanders v Hurricanes

This highly anticipated match will either cement one teams place in the top four, or it could see one team lurch backwards down the ladder. The Hurricanes have just come off a loss to the Crusaders, while the Highlanders only just squeezed past the Queensland Reds.

So the winner here will certainly gain some confidence, on the road to the Super Rugby playoffs.

Meet the home team:

Meet the away team:

Brad Shields brings up 100 ‘Canes caps

Hurricanes leader Brad Shields – in the news all too often for his new place in England Rugby – will run out onto the grass in Dunedin, ready to achieve a milestone. 100 games for the Hurricanes.

He will have played 99 Super Rugby games, plus the one match against the touring British and Irish Lions. So a massive achievement. One that over a dozen former ‘Canes players have completed, but Shields will be the only one who has completed the mark – but without ever becoming an All Black.

He will want to play his normal, no nonsense style of match in the last Super Rugby fixture, before he joins the England group in South Africa. If good fortune is with him, he might earn a test cap. But if you asked the player, he might honestly say ‘I’ll treasure those 100 Hurricanes matches the most’.

Note: when Super Rugby returns on June 30, Brad Shields will play his official 100th Super game, and New Zealand Rugby will honour the player on that occasion.

Battles all across the Park – Highlanders v Hurricanes

Fans and commentators often look for the man-on-man battle. It is where the best in their positions, can be measured against the other. So the front rows, pack, number 10 or the backlines.

But a key area; which has All Black selection implications, is at halfback. The long running match-up between Aaron Smith [Landers] and TJ Perenara [Canes]. The two men, who are good friends off the park, are super-competitive, and it will make the delicious derby match of the Highlanders v Hurricanes, just that much better.

Last Word on Rugby have written about how Perenara is now the equal of Smith, yet the personalities are what make big games, like this Friday night fixture, as interesting in the wider context. All Black selectors will be on hand, recording the strengths and weaknesses of each man. So it can be seen as a ‘probables v possibles’ test for the halfbacks starting role.

And the man-on-man challenge can be seen from numbers one to 23. The entire XV, plus the substitutes will all be met with a fierce challenge. Luke Whitelock up against Gareth Evans; a former Highlander, will be another tantalising match-up. The entire team sheet is full of those, plus more.

The odds are high that this match be will be ‘well covered’. Sports betting is now an established part of the game, as are statistics and analyses. The information, numbers, history and fitness of players all measure against the desire of each team to win.

Forsyth-Barr Stadium will provide perfect conditions

If the match were played outside, then conditions might have been a factor. It has been near freezing in the deep South Island, of New Zealand. But not in Dunedin tonight! The envy of many other Super Rugby franchises, the covered Forsyth-Barr Stadium will provide for perfect conditions.

And there too, the final statistic could play it’s part….the home side has won their last 11 matches in a row. A well earned record, only broken in 2017 by the Crusaders. How will the Highlanders cope against the massive challenge tonight? How large will crowd treat the visitors? One bet is that they will all be showing their support, flying their flags and cheering loudly. A local derby game, at it’s finest.

To find out who will triumph, tune in to your local broadcaster; just like tens of thousands of others, to see who comes out on top tonight.

It will be some riveting Friday Night Football!

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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