Hurricanes players, dejected after last year’s humiliation in Canberra. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
By Jake Beleski
Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields hasn’t forgotten the criticism levelled at his team after last year’s embarrassing 52-10 first round loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Hurricanes were labelled “fat” and “unfit” by Australian commentator Phil Kearns, who launched a scathing tirade against the team that would eventually go on to win the competition.
Ahead of Friday’s quarter-final rematch at the same venue, Masterton-born Shields said they were aware they had let the Hurricanes brand down in that match.
“It’s something we talk about amongst the team.
“Last time we were an embarrassing outfit.”
Friday’s fixture represents a chance for the defending champions to redeem themselves at a venue where they have enjoyed very little success over the years.
The Brumbies hold an 8-4 advantage in matches played in Canberra.
“We just want to play our best rugby and show we can perform at this venue,” Shields said.
“We’re still hurting from that game even though it was over a year ago, but we’ve also moved on as well.”
It will be a frosty welcome for the Hurricanes in more ways than one when they get the ground, with the temperature set to plummet to about 1 degree at kick-off.
Shields said they would use the warm-up to gauge the level of dew on the ground, an adjust their game plan accordingly.
The Hurricanes are 24 points ahead of the Brumbies on the Super Rugby table, but had to travel to Canberra courtesy of the Brumbies winning the woeful Australian conference.
“We’ve talked about how whatever’s happened up until this point of the season doesn’t really matter,” Shields said.
“At the end of the day we’re playing the Brumbies at home and if we don’t turn up prepared and ready to go we’ll get embarrassed.”
Last week the Hurricanes enjoyed a favourable penalty count from referee Glen Jackson against the Crusaders, and Jackson will again be the man in the middle for the quarter-final clash.
Shields said having the same referee two weeks in a row could be a good or bad thing.
“We went pretty well with Glen last week – our penalty count was one of the best it’s been all year.
“We adjusted well to his rules and maybe having him two weeks in a row is a bonus, but if we get on the wrong side of him we could be on the other side of the coin this week.”
Coach Chris Boyd said getting on top early would be a priority after slow starts in their previous two matches.
“It’s something we haven’t done well in the last couple of weeks – we’ve been behind significantly in both the British and Irish Lions match and the Crusaders game.
“Last time we played the Brumbies we were actually behind at halftime as well – it’s an area of our game we think we need to be better in.”
The winner of Friday’s match will play either the Lions or Sharks in next week’s semi-finals.