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Super Rugby: Hurricanes v Chiefs preview
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The Chiefs will aim to keep up the pressure on the league-leading Sharks when they travel to the WestPac Stadium to face the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Dave Rennie's side sit just five points behind the Durban-based franchise with a game in hand, although the Sharks have the opportunity to stretch their lead to 10 when they face the Blues in Auckland on Friday.
Meanwhile, victory for the eighth-placed Hurricanes could see them elevated into the top three depending on other results.
Prior to their bye in round 14, the Chiefs recorded back-to-back victories after successive defeats and Rennie will be eager to make it a hat-trick and build on their one-point lead at the head of the New Zealand conference.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes enter Saturday's clash after a mixed period which has seen them claim three wins in their last five outings, one of their two defeats coming against compatriots the Highlanders last time out.
Jack Lam will make his 50th appearance for the Wellington-based side when they host the Chiefs and the flanker believes the milestone match is also crucial for the Hurricanes.
"Personally, I'm humbled and honoured to reach 50 games, but as a team, this match is huge for us in terms of how the remainder of our season plays out," he told the Hurricanes' official website.
"I'm just looking forward to getting stuck in and leaving everything out on that field."
Hooker Dane Coles comes back in to the Hurricanes' starting line-up after a week's injury break, while fly-half Beauden Barrett has recovered well from a hip injury and is expected to start against the Chiefs.
Should Ash Dixon be deemed unfit in the coming days, Reggie Goodes will provide cover at hooker, and Mike Kainga will suit up for the first time as a Hurricane.
Meanwhile, Chiefs boss Rennie has made three changes to his starting XV for the trip to Wellington.
In the back-line, Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Charlie Ngatai returning from injury to take their place on the left wing and at outside centre respectively.
The only other change to the run-on side sees Tim Nanai-Williams, who has recommitted to the Chiefs for the 2015 season, return to take the full-back jersey.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden makes his comeback from a thumb injury on the replacements bench, where he is joined by fellow returnees Kane Thompson and Tom Marshall.
Hurricanes: 15 Taylor, 14 Jane, 13 Smith (capt), 12 Leiua, 11 Savea, 10 Barrett, 9 Perenara; 1 Franks, 2 Coles, 3 Toomaga-Allen, 4 Thrush, 5 Broadhurst, 6 Levave, 7 Lam, 8 Vito
Replacements: 16 Dixon/Goodes, 17 Eves, 18 Goodes/Kainga, 19 Shields, 20 Savea, 21 Smylie, 22 Bateman, 23 Proctor/ Marshall
Chiefs: 15 Nanai-Williams, 14 Sweeney, 13 Ngatai, 12 Aki, 11 Tikoirotuma, 10 Anscombe, 9 Kerr-Barlow; 1 Manu, 2 Harris, 3 Tameifuna, 4 Fitzgerald, 5 Retallick, 6 Latimer, 7 Cane, 8 Messam (capt)
Replacements: 16 Schwalger, 17 Mackintosh, 18 Hohneck, 19 Thompson, 20 Squire, 21 Weber, 22 Cruden, 23 Marshall
You can see the Hurricanes take on the Chiefs live on Sky Sports 2HD from 8:30am
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