Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett rolled the dice this week with his suggestion that the Bulls make use of illegal tactics at the maul – no doubt trying to get Australian-cum-New Zealand referee Steve Walsh distracted from whatever weakness might pop up.
It is an old ploy many coach before him used and no doubt many after him will attempt to use. The Hurricanes, determined to keep the momentum going that they created in their bonus point 29-26 win over the Crusaders last week, were boosted by the return of star loose forwards Victor Vito and Brad Shield (the latter sitting on the bench).
Now third in the New Zealand conference, and 10th overall, victory for the Hurricanes over the Bulls will propel them back into the top half of the draw ahead of their bye next week.
The Bulls, currently third in the South African standings, on 16 points, and seventh equal overall, will look to continue a recent trend against the Hurricane – four back-to-back wins, including their last visit to Napier in 2011. The Bulls are still smarting from their draw last week – when the Chiefs came from 16 points down to deny the Bulls not only a win, but also two invaluable points on the standings.
2013: Bulls won 48-14, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 26-14, Napier
2010: Bulls won 19-18, Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 19-14, Wellington
2008: Hurricanes won 50-22, Pretoria
2007: Hurricanes won 17-9, Wellington
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 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 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen/John Schwalger, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 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 Jurgen 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.
Replacements: 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.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)