Hurricanes prop poised for Highlanders onslaught

Last updated 05:00 13/03/2012
Ben May
BEN MAY: "I've played a lot of footy against Whopper [Mackintosh] and Mule [King] and I know exactly what's coming. She's going to be a tough day whoever it is ... I don't think the Highlanders will worry too much about our width.''
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Julian Savea of the Hurricanes looks to break from a tackle by Salesi Ma'afu of the Force.

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Ben May doesn't care much whether his date is with the Whopper or the Mule.

Either way the Hurricanes' new cornerstone prop reckons Saturday's homecoming Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Westpac Stadium will not be for the faint-hearted.

May has been one of the success stories of the Hurricanes' bright start to the season, his 124kg, 1.93m frame holding together a front row that's been under pressure for much of the first three matches.

More impressively, the 29-year-old has switched seamlessly between tighthead and loosehead as coach Mark Hammett has eased in relative rookie props Tristan Moran, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and Michael Bent.

May knows a sterner examination will come from a Highlanders scrum that is likely to field the grizzled front row of Jamie Mackintosh, hooker Andrew Hore and Chris King.

"I've played a lot of footy against Whopper [Mackintosh] and Mule [King] and I know exactly what's coming," he said yesterday. "She's going to be a tough day whoever it is ... I don't think the Highlanders will worry too much about our width."

Although he's not talking up the Hurricanes' scrum, May is adamant his young propping partners can hold their own regardless of whether he wears No1 or No3.

"I'm just happy to just be out there and helping progress Jeff [Toomaga-Allen], the young fella and see him come up. He had his first start on the weekend ... tighthead or loosehead it doesn't affect my game."

The Hurricanes are also bracing for an all-out assault from the Highlanders at the breakdown, an area they did not get the anticipated dress-rehearsal during their 46-19 win over the Force in Perth.

"We were prepared for the Force to attack us there with [Richard] Brown coming back in, we thought him and [David] Pocock would work hard at the breakdown, but I think they were worried about our width and they fanned out.

"I can't see the Highlanders doing that. I think they'll attack us anywhere they can, but especially at ruck time. They've had some good success there, particularly against the Crusaders. If they get an edge there it really stems your ability to get any game going.

"We are aware they will do it. I guess you just have to do the best you can to beat them and secure the ball. It's a big challenge against a big, physical pack like that."

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A taxing match may not be a bad thing for a Hurricanes side that, although back from a three-week road trip, looked fit and fresh on arrival back in Wellington.

The loose forwards, while busy in defence, have yet to be physically challenged at the breakdown by either the Stormers, Lions or Force.

That contrasts to the exhausted looking Highlanders players after their 18-17 win over the Waratahs.

There is little doubt forwards such as Mackintosh, King, Adam Thomson, Nasi Manu and Nick Crosswell have put in a huge physical investment in wins over the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Waratahs. Coach Jamie Joseph may be pondering the merits of rotation against the desire to start the season with four wins, a feat last achieved in 1999 and 2000.

He will be making at least one change with first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga out for a month with a shoulder injury.

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