Wellington - Hurricanes need a huge effort up front to steal an upset win in their Super Rugby semi-final against defending champions Crusaders, assistant coach John Plumtree said on Friday.
The Hurricanes go into the match on Saturday as underdogs against an in-form Crusaders outfit that has never lost any of the 19 finals matches staged in Christchurch.
Plumtree, who will take over as Hurricanes head coach from Chris Boyd next season, said the match would be decided in the forwards.
Asked to nominate a Crusaders' danger man, Plumtree replied: "The whole pack.
"I can't single out anyone. It's pretty much an international pack, so we've got to do a job up front," he told Radio Sport.
"Both sets of backs are excellent but the ones that flourish on the night will have the better platform (set by the forwards).
"The pack is the key for us. We've got to make sure we have a big effort up front."
The Crusaders' pack has more than 400 international caps among seven players, led by Kieran Read with 109. Sam Whitelock has 99 and Owen Franks 98.
The Hurricanes will field just two international forwards in Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Brad Shields, who have three caps between them.
Meanwhile, governing body SANZAAR has announced Australia's Angus Gardner will referee next week's competition decider, regardless of who wins the semi-finals.
The winner of the Crusaders-Hurricanes semi will ensure a New Zealand presence in the final but Gardner could also find himself officiating an Australian team if Waratahs beat the Golden Lions in their final four match.
"It is his maiden Super Rugby final appointment and is reward for his high quality performances throughout the season," SANZAAR said.
The venue for the decider will depend on which teams win the semi-finals.