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Super Rugby: Hurricanes v Cheetahs preview
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Rock-bottom Hurricanes face another tough Super Rugby assignment when they host the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday.
Even though the competition is still in its early stages, Hurricanes boss Mark Hammett is already feeling the heat as his side is the only one yet to register a victory.
The Hurricanes are currently on an eight-match losing streak, stretching back to last season. Their 2014 campaign kicked off with away losses against the Sharks and Stormers and they came up short again with another below par performance in their home defeat to the Brumbies last weekend.
Hammett is demanding a much improved performance from his charges this weekend, saying: "I said to the group that I don't give a stuff about how you prepare if we have another performance like that.
"This is a chance to remedy that, but there are 15 guys in a Cheetahs jersey who will be doing everything they can to stop that, so it doesn't matter how passionate or angry you get, you still have to get your core skills right."
Apart from their poor start, the Hurricanes also have extra motivation to do well as their captain Conrad Smith is playing his 100th Super Rugby match for the franchise.
Hammett has brought highly-rated openside flanker Ardie Savea into his starting line-up for the first time this season.
Hurricanes know they have the ability claim victory - they secured a 39-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last year.
But the Cheetahs will fancy their chances of adding to the home side's woes as their last visit to Wellington, in 2012, saw them produce a memorable 47-38 victory - their first triumph on New Zealand soil.
Seven members of the Cheetahs' squad on that occasion will be in action again this weekend - Willie le Roux, Johan Goosen, Philip van der Walt, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Andries Ferreira and Hennie Daniller.
Last weekend, the Cheetahs were unlucky to leave Brisbane empty-handed after they went down in a high-scoring encounter to the Reds. The Reds beat the Bloemfontein-based side 43-33 and the visitors were cruelly denied a bonus-point when Quade Cooper slotted a penalty in injury time.
After that defeat - their third in four matches - Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has made some changes to his run-on side
Sarel Pretorius has replaced Shaun Venter at no. 9, with Venter moving to the bench. Raymond Rhule has returned to left wing after an ankle injury side-lined him last week and Cornal Hendriks is back on right wing, while Le Roux returns to fullback. Ferreira and Daniller will be on the bench
Hurricanes: 15 Marshall, 14 Leiua, 13 Smith, 12 Parkes, 11 Savea, 10 Barrett, 9 Smylie, 1 Franks, 2 Coles, 3 Toomaga-Allen, 4 Thrush, 5 Reddish, 6 Levave, 7 Savea, 8 Thomson.
Replacements: 16 Matu'u, 17 Eves, 18 Schwalger, 19 Broadhurst, 20 Lam, 21 Perenara, 22 Proctor, 23 Banks.
Cheetahs: 15 Le Roux, 14 Hendricks, 13 Sadie, 12 Venter, 11 Rhule, 10 Goosen, 9 Pretorius, 1 Oosthuizen, 2 Strauss, 3 Van Dyk, 4 De Jager, 5 Uys, 6 Prinsloo, 7 Labuschagne, 8 Van der Walt.
Replacements: 16 Barnes, 17 Nyakane, 18 De Klerk, 19 Ferreira, 20 Cook, 21 Venter, 22 Watts, 23 Daniller.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com