Barrett crucial in Hurricanes' bid for history


Beauden Barrett may be the crucial component for a Hurricanes side attempting to end an unwanted statistic in Saturday's Super Rugby final against Lions.

Hurricanes are the only team from New Zealand to have never won a Super Rugby title, with two finals resulting in defeats - including last season's 21-14 reverse to Highlanders.

This season represents perhaps Hurricanes' best chance yet to change history with a partisan Wellington crowd sure to create an intimidating atmosphere for a Lions side that has a poor record against the New Zealanders.

Indeed, nine of their past 10 meetings have gone the way of Hurricanes - including all of the past seven - and they were dominant 50-17 victors in Johannesburg back in April.

Moreover, Hurricanes, who hope to have captain Dane Coles back in their starting XV following a rib injury, boast arguably the league's best player in New Zealand star Barrett.

The All Blacks fly-half has scored 208 points in Super Rugby this season, more than any other player, and was in sensational form as Hurricanes defeated Chiefs 25-9 in the semi-finals.

Without Barrett, and the superb Ardie Savea, Hurricanes may not have won that fixture, the 25-year-old the architect of a wonderful try that Willis Halaholo finished before completing a 55 metre interception pass for their second score.

In a game where the immovable object is set to meet an irresistible force - Hurricanes have not conceded a try in the play-offs, while no one has scored more tries than Lions this season - Barrett can be the man to end Hurricanes' painful wait.

But on the opposite side, Lions, boosted by the impending return of captain Warren Whiteley from a shoulder injury, can call upon a fly-half who is also in sublime form in the shape of Elton Jantjies.

Jantjies is third in the points-scoring list and produced one of the finest performances of his career in the thrilling 45-25 last-four win over Crusaders.

The 26-year-old has added motivation as he seeks a regular place in the South Africa team for the Rugby Championship and he can make no bigger statement of intent than getting one over on Barrett.

The battle between Barrett and Jantjies is one recognised by Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd, but he believes the two offer different skill sets.

"I think they [Barrett and Jantjies] are different, but they both have capable skills," he told NZ Newswire. "He [Jantjies] is a quality player and his confidence will be very high after the last couple of weeks."

Lions, who are also yet to win Super Rugby in the professional era meaning five of the last six victors will be a first-time winner, may also have to contend with wet and windy conditions in Wellington, but coach Johan Ackermann says his team must stick to what they know.

"We can't go into our shells just because it's wet. This is a one-off opportunity and I want the guys to go out there and enjoy it," he told SuperSport.

"We will play our natural game and hopefully it will be good enough to score tries as we have done the whole season."

Even if the weather does play ball, Lions may have a storm to contend with in Barrett.