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'It's going to be a challenge': How the Hurricanes plan to shock the Blues

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Hurricanes assistant coach Tyler Bleyendaal has called on his side to improve their defence ahead of this week’s Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Blues in Dunedin.

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The Hurricanes head into their bout with the Auckland-based title-frontrunners at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday on the back of their season-opening 42-32 defeat at the hands of the Crusaders last weekend.

During that match, the Hurricanes conceded six tries – a hat-trick to Leicester Fainga’anuku, a rolling maul try to debutant Shilo Klein and a penalty try – and the most points of any team in the opening round of the new season.

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Picking the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific | Aotearoa Rugby Pod
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As such, Bleyendaal is after an improved effort from the Wellington-based outfit as they prepare to take on a side that has no shortage of talent and quality.

The Blues are expected to roll out a full-strength lineup after their season-opener against Moana Pasifika was postponed because of a Covid outbreak in the opposition camp.

That would see the likes of Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Caleb Clarke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Finlay Christie, among others, feature in the backline, while the forward pack could be almost entirely comprised of current or former All Blacks.

It’s for that reason that Bleyendaal emphasised that the Hurricanes can’t afford to give the Blues the opportunities they allowed the Crusaders to take advantage of on attack.

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“Not the result we were after. We created plenty of good opportunities, we just turned a bit of ball over at the breakdown,” Bleyendaal, an ex-Crusaders first-five, said of the Hurricanes’ efforts against his former side.

“They challenged us there and missed a few assignments, so it’s something we’re going to have to look at going forward.

“Obviously they’re very strong in the set-piece once they got into our 22, so a bit of emphasis on us taking the opportunities we create and we’ve got to put some work into that 22 defence.

“We didn’t get off to a great start, but we made some adjustments. We just need to work on that physicality in our tackle and our contest at the breakdown.

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“What we’re trying to achieve on attack, that’s what we’re trying to stop with our defence, so we’ll put some work into it this week. Like I say, we were close in a lot of regards, just not the result.”

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Bleyendaal acknowledged the threat that the Blues pose with ball in hand, and said it was up to his players to prevent turnovers this weekend after they coughed the ball up 13 times against the Crusaders.

“It’s going to be another challenge, that’s for sure. [The Blues have] a big forward pack that get them on the front foot, and then they’ve got a lot of x-factor and excitement in the backline, so we’re going to have to be clinical,” he said.

“On attack, we need to limit our turnovers. We were quite high in our turnover count. If we continue that, it’s going to provide them with a lot of free ball to attack with, so can start there.

“Then, obviously our defence, we’re just going to shore up a few areas and try have more of a contest in those contact areas.”

Hurricanes halfback Jamie Booth, who made his return to Super Rugby after missing all of last year’s campaign due to a broken leg, was similarly critical of his side, but added there were some bright moments throughout the course of the Crusaders match.

“Probably from a game management point-of-view, I thought we kicked really well and played in the right parts of the field,” he said.

“Ultimately, discipline probably let us down in that second half. They’ve got an awesome maul and were able to kick to the corner and go for that. I think there’s four or five penalties where they scored off all of them, so that’s a pretty big work-on, I reckon.”

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