Preview: Hurricanes vs Bulls

The Bulls will be aiming to keep their six-year unbeaten streak against the Hurricanes intact when they meet in Napier.

The Hurricanes, though, will fancy their chances of winning on Saturday, having beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend. It will be the Canes' final match before their first bye of the competition and with only two triumphs to show from their first six outings, success this Saturday would go a long way in keeping their play-off ambitions alive.

Having both Victor Vito and Brad Shields back in the side from knee injuries should bolster their chances. Equally the return of Cory Jane at the wing can be seen as a blessing, seeing as centre Tim Bateman has to sit this one out after picking up a shoulder injury.

In contrast, the Bulls made only a minor tweak to their side that was held to a draw by the Chiefs in Pretoria last weekend. Skipper Flip van der Merwe returns from injury and will join Paul Willemse in the second row while veteran lock Victor Matfield reverts back to the coach's box. He will resume his on-field duties when his team returns to South Africa.

One of the most significant differences between the two sides is the accuracy they have shown in attack. The Hurricanes, spearheaded by the vastly experienced Conrad Smith, have been exceptional in showing continuity with ball in hand and this has resulted in the team being one of the most dangerous when presented with turnover possession.

Defensively there will always be room from improvement, but the Canes are steadily proving that attack is one of the best ways to defend and would have noticed that one of the main deficiencies in the Bulls set-up is the mindset of their outside backs. While fielding a balanced pack of bulky forwards, the Bulls have struggled to penetrate defences out wide, while those same outside backs have hardly provided the requisite defensive cover – especially when forced into a counter-attacking situation.

What could end up being somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the visitors is the fact that the match is being played at Napier's McLean Park as opposed to windy Wellington, where goal-kicking and lineout throws can become a nightmare.

Both these sides would like to show some improvement in their discipline at the tackle area and that is where the Hurricanes will be counting on Vito to ensure they have a greater impact on that facet of play.

At set phase the Bulls have had an up-and-down season with their weakness at tighthead often allowing sides to dominate at scrum time.

The Hurricanes have, to some extent, focused more on speeding up the game with their tight five often displaying superb ball handling and distribution skills. But they need no reminder that victory against the Bulls starts with victory at the collision area while the odd psychological blow at scrum-time would do their cause a world of good.

It will therefore be interesting to see whether Jeff Toomaga-Allen or John Schwalger will anchor their scrum. Toomaga-Allen suffered a bad knock to his head last week and a final call on his availability will be made prior to kick-off.

Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen/John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger/Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 Marty Banks

Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.

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Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Post by

Simon Borchardt