Well, the Hurricanes indeed had the difficulties with handling errors as usual, while they were definitely outmuscled at set-piece in the first half. You know what's more exciting for Wellingtonians than the Springboks' bomb squad though? The Hurricanes' own version of it. Having changed the momentum of the game completely, the Hurricanes' reserves were able to take the half-time score of 8-7, to a solid win by 29-14. Very respectable margin.
We'll all still be giddy at the 'Canes' mental toughness after they were deficient in this match-day element for so long, so how about we do the usual thing and read through Jason Holland's side from jersey number 1 through to number 23, to see how each player went.
HURRICANES PLAYER RATINGS
Northland's Josh Moorby looked good, his confidence under the high ball is ever-increasing out the back for the Hurricanes. Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Xavier Numia (6/10)
The lone lost scrum for the Hurricanes can be attributed to Numia being bested by Jermaine Ainsley. Numia was by no means bad though, he still ran 10 metres and beat 2 defenders; to average 2m per carry. Cool subtle touches and 5/5 tackles.
Hooker - Dane Coles (4/10)
Tied with Kirifi as the second-most penalised player of the night; while the team's lone lineout mishap was a poor throw from Coles. Barely got any ball but at least managed 12 metres off his 2 carries. 4 total completed tackles made for a sub-par effort.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (8/10)
Lost the battle for the nation's "best prop" title but made some massive hits while cleaning rucks. All of his metres were post-contact from 2 carries, while a defensive effort of 2 turnovers and 9/11 tackles should keep Lomax as Jason Ryan's preferred number 3 for the All Blacks.
Lock 4 - James Blackwell (8/10)
With Bird in to take the lineout responsibilities, Blackwell looked relaxed and worked hard for 12 tackles and 1 turnover. The 28-year-old scored a try in the 48th minute; a big statement for the second-half, while he accumulated 23 metres off a team-high 13 carries. A career-best performance; though the 5 missed tackles did downgrade the rating.
Lock 5 - Dominic Bird (6/10)
Decent outing for the former All Black, who ran 13 metres off 5 carries and made 4 passes from the lineout. Bird's dirty work in the breakdown started to shine in the second 40, while he finished the game off with 8/10 tackles.
Blindside Flanker - Brayden Iose (7/10)
Although Iose failed to link-up with other carriers a few times, casuals would have very much enjoyed the big hits from his 9 tackles, 33 metres, 3 defenders beaten, 1 clean break and 5 carries. Had better discipline than the other forwards.
Openside Flanker - Du'Plessis Kirifi (6/10)
Tied with Coles as the Hurricanes' most-penalised player and was found lacking some patience; causing the 4 missed tackles. 14 was his total, but accuracy trumps volume. Carried strongly for 31 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (7/10)
Is the national hero either saving energy for the world cup, or out of form? Savea wasn't bad, he worked hard, but just isn't at his usual outstanding standards. His 10/10 tackles, 1 turnover and his 20 metres from 6 carries were useful, there's no dispute. We've just got so used to seeing him absolutely dominate so it felt odd to see a slightly-above average game.
Halfback - Cam Roigard (9/10)
What a performance from the young 9; who may have just gained the inside running for Scott Robertson's 2024 All Blacks. Had an inspirational 58 minutes for 1 try, 91 metres, 4 defenders beaten, 1 clean break off 11 carries, as well as 49 passes, 1 turnover won and 1 offload. Only reason he isn't a 10/10 rating, is 8/12 tackles.
First-Five - Aidan Morgan (7/10)
On his way back from concussion, Morgan took a more settled in-game approach. Had some shaky defensive moments with 5/8 tackles but combined well with Roigard for decisions made. Ran 42 metres and made 1 clean break from his 9 carries.
Left Wing - Salesi Rayasi (7/10)
Very much assumed his status as the team's star try-scorer, notching a double. His season try tally now stands at 6. Ran 40 metres off his 10 carries, while being used as an extra distributor for 14 passes and 2 offloads in some strike moves called by Morgan.
Second-Five - Jordie Barrett (6/10)
For a bloke that looked awfully quiet during the live match, Barrett still added much to his stat sheet. Managed 39 metres from 11 carries, though his 13 passes and 4 offloads didn't result in much. Defended nicely for 8/8 tackles in a fair enough game.
Centre - Billy Proctor (7/10)
Benefitted from several poor defensive patterns from the Highlanders and covered the space for 84 metres, 7 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks from his 9 carries. Was only needed for 1 tackle. Big question is that can Proctor be a creator?
Right Wing - Julian Savea (5/10)
Didn't receive much ball at all during the game; resulting in just 20 metres off 6 carries. Provided the basics with 4/5 tackles, including a try-saver, but at 32 years old, we can't expect the big man to be the player he once was.
Fullback - Josh Moorby (8/10)
With his wingers working to help him in the back-field on defence, Moorby made just 1/1 tackle. He worked very hard under the high ball to enable counter-attacks and got a few chances for himself with 57 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 9 carries. Nice game.
Reserve Hooker - Asafo Aumua (8/10)
We all know Malcolm Marx is king of the 16 jersey in World Rugby... but Aumua... is he the NZ version of Marx? Provided brilliant impact at the breakdown clearances and ran 14 metres off 3 carries. With 9/10 tackles, he outperformed Coles again.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Pouri Rakete-Stones (7/10)
Bought real energy in the tight spaces of the pitch, providing much of the extra front-foot ball that the Hurricanes possessed in the second-half. Made 1 timely turnover to secure the score margin and made 5/5 tackles. That's the prop life.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Owen Franks (7/10)
Made strong carries to suck defenders in at key moments, though a total of 3 metres from 2 carries doesn't initially look amazing. Made 1 pass, 3/3 tackles and gave the Highlanders' scrum a tough time.
Reserve Utility Forward - TK Howden (9/10)
Howden was a late call-up for the Hurricanes after Isaia Walker-Leawere was injured. He provided real dominance with 51 metres off 4 carries and smashed the Highlanders backwards for 7/9 tackles and 1 turnover. Start him at 6 next week.
Reserve Loose Forward - Peter Lakai (6/10)
The young openside didn't get much of a chance, coming on for Savea with 13 to play. Lakai, the number 20, he'll be very happy with 6 metres off 2 tight carries and 5/5 tackles though. Is settling into Super Rugby very well for a 20-year-old.
Reserve Halfback - Jamie Booth (8/10)
Put the scoreline out of reach after Rakete-Stones' turnover, to step Thomas Umaga-Jensen and offload for Rayasi's second try. Had a decent stat sheet of 17 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off that lone carry, as well as 3 turnovers. Immense for a 9.
Reserve Utility Back - Harry Godfrey (No rating)
Normally a fullback, Godfrey replaced Morgan for the last 11 minutes to get a run at 10. He won't be rated due to a lack of game time.
Reserve Midfielder - Peter Umaga-Jensen (No rating)
Although Umaga-Jensen had much more game time than Godfrey, with 22 minutes off the bench, he didn't get many opportunities, so also won't be rated. Great to see him back from injury.