Game of the Week - Hurricanes v Bulls
March 19, 2009
Andrew Hore returns for the Hurricanes against the Bulls on Friday © Getty Images
The weekend kicks off with our featured Super 14 game of the week as the unbeaten Bulls play their first game overseas in Wellington against the Hurricanes on Friday.
Both teams come off byes after victories and the Bulls sit atop the league after unbeaten run while the Hurricanes are currently in fifth, four points behind them
Frans Ludeke's Bulls are shorn of lock Victor Matfield who has a shoulder injury but are still able to field a Springbok lock combination in the form of Bakkies Botha and Danie Rousouw. Ludeke has also opted to start with Derick Kuun at hooker who comes in for Chilliboy Ralepelle as part of his rotational policy.
The rest of the starting XV remains the same to the one that beat the Stormers two weeks ago but Ludeke knows that the Hurricanes at home will be a tough proposition.
"The Hurricanes are a well balanced team and they have adapted splendidly to the new ELV's. They know exactly what they want to do and we all know they are extremely dangerous from broken play. They are all great athletes and we are preparing ourselves for a huge challenge."
For the Hurricanes, hooker Andrew Hore makes his first start for nearly five months after battling back from an ankle injury. The All Blacks' Player of the Year in 2008 came off the bench against the Cheetahs two weeks ago but last started a game for New Zealand in their Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia in Hong Kong, suffering the tour-ending injury minutes into the game.
The Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper will be hoping that Hore can quickly discover his form of last year's competition that saw his being recognised as New Zealand's best player.
"He's been outstanding as a leader and obviously brings confidence to the whole group," said Cooper. "That's just experience and the style that he plays."
The Hurricanes lineout struggled against the Cheetahs but Cooper will be looking for an improvement in this facet of the game.
"We had a whole lot of things going wrong there. We've done a lot of work there so hopefully we can improve, we need to improve," Cooper said.
There are three changes to the Hurricanes' starting line-up as John Schwalger starts at loosehead prop, Neemia Tialata moves to tighthead and Hore returns at hooker.
Interestingly the Bulls coach Frans Lueke has never won a Super rugby match in New Zealand - he'll be hopeful of breaking that duck this weekend.
Hurricanes: Ellison; Guildford, Smith, Nonu, Gear, Weepu, Mathewson; Schwalger, Hore, Tialata, Thrush, Eaton/Evans, Lowe, Waldrom, So'oialo (captain)
Replacements: Coles, Ellison, Evans/Naikatini, Levave, Ripia, Kawau, Smith.
Bulls: Kirchner; Ndungane, Nel, Olivier, van den Heever, Steyn, du Preez (captain); Steenkamp, Kuün, Kruger, Botha, Rossouw, Stegmann, Wannenburg, Spies
Replacements: Ralepelle, Gerber, Steenkamp, Potgieter, Adams, Francis, Pretorius.