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PREVIEW: Bulls v Hurricanes

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Friday, February 23, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

MATCH DETAILS: Hurricanes v Bulls, 4.15am Sunday (NZT), Pretoria

Played: 20
Wins: Bulls 9, Hurricanes 11
Last match: Bulls 20-34 Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld, May 27, 2017

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Hurricanes made the most of their pre-season opportunities to beat the defending champions the Crusaders in Greymouth in their first game and then just before choosing their side to head to South Africa and Argentina they added a good win over the Blues in Warkworth to their achievements. The Bulls went down to the Sharks in their first outing and drew 26-26 with the Stormers but outplayed the Jaguares 21-12 in their last warm-up game. 

QUICK TAP: HURRICANES 2018 TEAM PREVIEW

TIGHTHEAD CONUNDRUM
Bull coach John Mitchell has been faced with a problem at tighthead prop. It had been hoped Springbok Trevor Nyakane would be able to shift across the scrum to take on the tighthead duties but the experiment has not worked and Nyakane hasn't even made the match day squad. Instead, Frans van Wyk has been handed the job. The unfortunate thing for Nyakane is that the Bulls are well off for looseheads. That puts pressure on van Wyk, 22, who is making his Super Rugby debut, his previous high level exposure being as a replacement for the Stormers in the Currie Cup final. However, he is regarded as a potential Springbok.
SURPRISE ON THE FLANK
Ardie Savea will be up against a new face in the loose battle where Thembelani Bholi has made a meteoric rise through the ranks. Formerly a Southern Kings player he was expected to have to work his way out of the wider training group, but instead he has supplanted Nick de Jager, the side's co-captain who has been down on minutes in pre-season play, to claim the starting role. "He has demonstrated some excellent work both on and off the field. He has leaned up enormously and the guys say he is pretty hard as well. I wouldn't like to run into him and hopefully a few Hurricanes don't like to run into him either," Mitchell said.

FAST FACT:
Beauden Barrett is two points away from becoming the fourth person to score 1000 Super Rugby points.
TEAMS:
Bulls: 1.Pierre Schoeman, 2.Jaco Visagie, 3.Frans van Wyk, 4.RG Snyman, 5.Lood de Jager, 6.Roelof Smit, 7.Thembelani Bholi, 8.Hanro Liebenberg, 9.Andre Warner, 10.Handre Pollard, 11.Johnny Kotze, 12.Burger Odendaal (captain), 13.Jesse Kriel, 14.Travis Ismaiel, 15.Warrick Gelant.

Substitutes: 16.Adriaan Strauss, 17.Lize Gqoboka, 18.Conraad van Vuuren, 19.Nic de Jager, 20.Marco van Staden, 21.Embrose Papier, 22.Marnitz Boshoff, 23.Divan Roussouw.

Hurricanes: 1.Toby Smith, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Ben May, 4.Vaea Fifita, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Brad Shields (captain), 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Vince Aso, 14.Julian Savea, 15.Matt Proctor.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Alex Fidow, 19.Murray Douglas, 20.Blade Thomson, 21.Jamie Booth, 22.Beauden Barrett, 23.Ben Lam.