Wellington - If the Wellington Hurricanes had any clue how to negate the 'truck-and-trailer' lineout drive employed by the Bulls this season, they were not letting on ahead of their Super Rugby clash in Napier on Saturday.
The Bulls' set-piece, resembling the kind of lengthy, blue road-train seen barrelling along the dusty highways of Australia's 'Outback', resulted in two tries against the Waikato Chiefs last weekend and has left opposition coaches scratching their heads as to how to counter it.
Flanker Deon Stegmann scored one of the tries, while the second was awarded by referee Craig Joubert after the Chiefs collapsed the drive metres before Stegmann crashed over for what would have been a certain try.
“I had a quick look at their game on the weekend and it's no secret what they bring,” Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst told reporters.
“We'll have to be pretty sharp with our lineout defence and our counter drive (and) ... competing in the air is one way of stopping it, so I think we'll have to be really on to it with that.”
While the efficiency at their lineout drive is a concern for the Hurricanes, the Chiefs managed to battle back from a 16-point deficit to draw the game 34-34 and gave a hint on how to exploit the Bulls late in the match.
Pace out wide and quick interchanges between players in support allowed them to score three tries in the final 11 minutes.
The Hurricanes may be well placed to emulate the Chiefs. The Wellington-based side, despite having won just two of their six games, are the most potent attackers in the competition.
They are equal first in tries scored (20), first in clean breaks (52), defenders beaten (146), carries (736) and total metres gained (2928).
In contrast the Bulls are 10th, 14th, 15th, 13th and 14th in the respective categories.
Instead, the Pretoria-based side rely on their massive pack to bash their way forward before flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicks them down field.
With territorial gains, former Springboks lock Victor Matfield, who rejoined the team after retiring following the 2011 World Cup, then comes into his own as a world class poacher to put pressure on the opposition lineout.
Matfield also wins his own ball more often than not.
The 36-year-old Matfield is third in lineout takes this season with 27, behind the ACT Brumbies' Ben Mowen (34) and Auckland Blues' Steven Luatua (28). Matfield's locking partner Flip van Der Merwe has grabbed 20.
The Hurricanes, however, showed last week against the Canterbury Crusaders they were more than a match at the set-piece and competitive from the start after starting slowly in their defeat to the Highlanders the previous round.
“We were right in it from the start and the result looked after itself,” Hurricanes assistant coach Alama Ieremia told reporters. “It's a big shift.” – Reuters