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Preview: Hurricanes v Highlanders

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Sportal.co.nz     05 Jul 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 20; Highlanders 8, Hurricanes 12
LAST TIME: Round 5, 2013 - Highlanders 19-23 Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium

MISSING IN ACTION: A calf strain has ended All Blacks hooker Dane Coles' season, but the Hurricanes should have young flanker Ardie Savea for the match following his return from Junior All Blacks duty. Jack Lam also returns after making his debut for Samoa in the recently-completed quad series with Scotland, South Africa and Italy.

Prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen continues to recover from tearing his medial cruciate ligament and won't appear for the Hurricanes for the rest of the season.

The Highlanders, meanwhile, won't have the services of Ma'a Nonu after a red card issued to the centre in the 12-40 loss to the Crusaders resulted in a three week ban. He will be joined in the stands by Jarrad Hoeata, whose third yellow card of the season resulted in a one-week suspension.

FORM: It has been a season to forget for coach Jamie Joseph, and the poor patch continued against the Crusaders on June 29.

Critical errors and ill discipline haunted the Highlanders in their 12-40 hiding at the hands of the Crusaders, with yellow and red cards to Jarrad Hoeata and Ma'a Nonu the obvious lowlights. Despite an early 7-3 lead, the Highlanders never looked in a match where Colin Slade's kicking boots were left at home and the hosts' confidence was left at the gate. The Highlanders' season, on reflection, will be seen as already poor crop unlikely to bear any more fruit in 2013.

Despite being downed 22-34 by the Chiefs in Round 18, the Hurricanes looked sharp and played arguably their best half of rugby all season in that match. They kept the defending champions to just a 17-15 lead at half-time before a late blowout saw the Waikato franchise run away with the match in the final 30 minutes of the match. Confidence should be high following the defeat.

WE THINK:
The end of the season cannot come sooner for the Highlanders, who will be looking at the match as one to help them avoid finishing last on the ladder.

It should be too tough an ask given they are playing away to an eliminated Hurricanes side adamant they won't lose any competitive edge. Hurricanes by 12