Vito eyes Lions mauling in final
Wellington - Victor Vito believes the script has been written for his Hurricanes to become the fifth new Super Rugby champions in six years when they battle the Golden Lions in Saturday's final.
The odds favour the All Black flank's side winning the southern Hemisphere championship in what will be his 100th and final game for the Hurricanes.
They finished top of the regular season giving them home advantage, while the Lions have to make the energy-sapping journey from South Africa to New Zealand.
There is also the added emotion of the popular Vito's milestone match to bring down the curtain on his career with the Hurricanes before linking up with French club La Rochelle.
"It certainly seems like the script's been written a little bit," Vito said. "A hundred games is pretty massive for me personally, but for me I'm just more excited about the fact that once again we are giving ourselves a shot to win a title as a team."
Although playing at home did not profit the Hurricanes when they lost last year's final to the Highlanders, they have the added advantage this year of the travel factor impacting on the Lions.
In 10 attempts, no South African team has flown to New Zealand for a play-off match and won.
The Lions situation boils down to coach Johann Ackermann's decision to rest his top players for their final pool match against the Jaguares in Argentina and they paid the ultimate price by being comprehensively beaten.
Had they managed just one point out of that game they would be hosting the final on the high veldt in South Africa, instead of playing in what is forecast to be a chilly, wet Wellington evening.
"I'll probably have to live with the team selection for Buenos Aires," Ackermann said.
"Will we make the wrong decision sometimes? Yes. But we'll always go down trying."
Ackermann is expected to have his inspirational but injury-troubled skipper Warren Whiteley fit for Saturday but the Hurricanes are again likely to be without Dane Coles who has been bracketed with Ricky Riccitelli.
"He will do everything he can to be fit for kick-off and if he doesn't make it then we have every confidence Ricky and Leni (replacement Leni Apisa) will step up and do a good job if required," coach Chris Boyd said Thursday when naming his side, which again has All Black Julian Savea on the bench.
Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland described the Lions as a "complete side" with an astute tactician in flyhalf Elton Jantjies.
"They still have the awesomely strong South African pack with their driving lineouts and their strong set piece. But they can also play a bit with Jantjies and his left foot," Holland said.
"They're a pretty complete side and we're going to have to match them physically and then be aware that they can play with a bit of width."
It is the third final to be contested by the Hurricanes and a maiden appearance for the Lions.
The winner will join the Highlanders, Waratahs, Chiefs and Reds who have all won their maiden titles in the past five years with the Chiefs winning twice.
Comparing their vital statistics, the Lions' impressive running game has them top of the try list with 81 this year to the Hurricanes' 70, and they have scored a total of 535 points to the Hurricanes' 458.
But the Hurricanes have a better defensive record, leaking 314 points to the Lions' 349 and they go into the final having not had any tries scored against them in more than 230 minutes.
When the two sides met in Johannesburg earlier this year, the Hurricanes won 50-17.