No silver bullet for Hurricanes
Wellington - The Hurricanes have not stumbled upon a magic formula this season and their success is built on hard work put in over the last few years by a maturing playing group, according to their coach and captain.
The Hurricanes host Australia's Brumbies in the Super Rugby semi-final at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday after finishing top of the standings.
It is the first semi-final the Wellington-based side have hosted since 2006, creating an expected sell out, and their first appearance in the playoffs since 2009.
"I don't think there's a silver bullet and there's not one answer," coach Chris Boyd told reporters of their success.
"There are a whole lot of bits and pieces that has got the chemistry right."
The progression of players such as new All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder from the wider training group and the experience gained through seasons of Super Rugby had also played a part, Boyd said.
Captain Conrad Smith, who will play his last game for the Hurricanes on Saturday if his side lose, felt the team's success had been down to the work done over the last few years.
"It's particularly pleasing the results this year but a lot was put in place two or three years ago," Smith said.
"A lot of the team have been together for that long."
Smith expressed his admiration for the Brumbies, whose simple, territory-dominated game plan has led them to at least the semi-finals in each of the last three years.
"I was confident they would beat the Stormers over there," he said of the Australian side's 39-19 victory in Cape Town last week.
"I rate them very highly and I was surprised that they finished sixth."
Smith's admiration is well founded.
The Brumbies destroyed the Stormers, who were without bruising loose forwards Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen, and that performance should be a warning to Hurricanes fans.
The South African side, led by Burger, Vermeulen and lock Eben Etzebeth, had come close to beating the Hurricanes in Wellington with a close quarters, physical game that forced them into making 186 tackles.
The Hurricanes lost just twice this season, to the Waratahs and Crusaders, with both teams dominating the contact area and shutting down the Hurricanes' attacking options with superb speed off the defensive line, something that has been noticed by the Brumbies.
"The biggest thing is look at how they defended them and the Waratahs had a lot of great line speed," prop Scott Sio told the Canberra Times.
"With the Hurricanes having so many attacking weapons ... you can't give them the time and space to create those opportunities.
"We know how big defence is going to be in this game."