Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has dismissed the notion that ‘home ground advantage’ could feature when his team meet the Chiefs in the Super 14 semifinal in Hamilton on Friday.
Despite going down 8-16 to the Chiefs in the competition’s penultimate league round just over a week ago, a result which ultimately cost his team a top-two finish and the privilege of hosting the play-off match, Cooper is adamant that his team is good enough to win anywhere.
“Wherever we go, this team will be tough to knock over,” he told NZPA.
“We just wanted to ensure we made the top four, it didn’t really matter where.”
Rugby 365 reports that Cooper readily acknowledges that the Chiefs will be just as tough this time as they were on May 9, but feels that his team has progressed well since that defeat.
He felt his team’ 37-28 victory over an injury-ravaged Reds team at the weekend was the perfect ‘trial run’ for the play-offs.
“The Chiefs will be tough at home; it’s always a big ask going there,” he said.
“But that win [over the Reds] has given us a lot of confidence. It’s amazing how your confidence gets knocked, and now we’re back on track.”
Adding to Cooper’s buoyant mood was an injury-free medical report for his players, aside from the standard bumps and bruises from a physical encounter in Brisbane at the weekend.
The result continued Cooper’s impressive record with the Hurricanes; their fifth playoff appearance in seven seasons.
Still, they remain title-less, with three semifinal defeats since 2003 and a solitary appearance in the decider – a 12-19 loss in the 2006 foggy Final in Christchurch.
In one of the most even seasons in recent memory in 2009, Cooper felt the Brisbane hit-out had his Hurricanes cherry ripe for a title charge.
“There were a few things we had to sort out. We learned some good things from that loss [to the Chiefs] and we’ll go in a lot better prepared this time,” he told NZPA.
“I’m excited and pretty proud of my boys. They never gave up and they had to really fight for that win.
“The Reds kept coming back and we had to dig deep, particularly in the contact area. If we hadn’t worked really hard we would have got tipped over.”
All Blacks midfielder Ma’a Nonu scored two of the Hurricanes’ five tries as they cruised to the bonus point after 33 minutes in what appeared at times little more than an opposed training run.
The Reds fought back with three converted tries and it was 31-21 with 25 minutes left, before back-to-back Willie Ripia penalties gave the visitors enough breathing space.
A Hurricanes standout was Sevens star Victor Vito, who produced one of his better efforts in the No.6 jersey.
His devastating runs with the ball clutched in one hand set up two tries and there was some bruising defence, previewing another mouth-watering loose forward battle in Hamilton.
“Victor’s been getting more and more accurate. There’s a couple of things he’s had to work on in the contact area and his work rate. He adds a lot of firepower on attack and defence and he could be a real star of the future for us,” Cooper said.Tweet