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The Hurricanes take on the Sunwolves in Wellington as Round 11 of the Super Rugby season gets underway.

The last time – in fact, the only time – these teams met, the Canes almost broke the century mark, winning 83-17 in Round 1 last year.

The Sunwolves are a better side now for sure but then arguably so are the Hurricanes.

The Canes are currently sitting second in the competitive New Zealand conference and fourth overall.

Considering the Sunwolves’ fortunes – played eight, lost eight and by an average of 35 points in their last five away games – it’s easy to write this game off as predictable and without overall importance but there are some interesting subplots.

For the Hurricanes their fearless leader, Brad Shields, has found himself in the middle of an international tug of war between the England RFU and New Zealand Rugby Union. Eddie Jones has said that he wants to take Shields on the England tour to South Africa in a couple of months but the NZRU are insistent that Shields is contracted until the end of the season and cannot play for another national side until then. Whether this drama has an impact is yet to be seen.

Rugby fans everywhere will be excited about seeing Ben Lam in this game – when you combine one of the most effective ball runners in the competition with one of the weakest defences, we could be looking at a long highlights reel post-game.

Arguably even more exciting for the Canes faithful is the return of Nehe Milner-Skudder – he’s been out since October but his shoulder injury has been responding well and he’s likely to come on from the bench.

For the Sunwolves, this match will likely see another brave performance from their leader Pieter Labuschagne. Interestingly, the combination of his team having to do a lot of defending this season and his own ability and guts has Labuschagne as one of the top defenders in the whole competition. He’s a talismanic figure for the team from Japan and he’s going to need to be at his best.

PredictionIt’s hard to see any other result than a Canes victory, with the real question being how big the winning margin will be.

Hurricanes to win by 25.

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