Hurricanes lock Thrush plans aerial assault
Jeremy Thrush doesn't plan to keep his feet on the ground much this Super Rugby season.
It's got nothing to do with getting carried away with his status this season as an All Black, rather everything to do with the Hurricanes taking a more proactive approach to the lineout.
"The last couple of years I've been personally frustrated we don't get up and contest [the opposition's throw]," he said ahead of tonight's match against the Brumbies.
"If you are going to stop a [lineout] drive the first place to stop it is in the air. Those guys over there [in South Africa], if you let them set up the maul and then try to stop it you are in big trouble."
While the Hurricanes scrum was a mixed bag in South Africa, the lineout was a strength and will again be crucial against a Brumbies side that has one of the better set pieces in the competition.
"The Brumbies have a bit of an African style and did last year too maybe with [former coach] Jake White's influence," Thrush said.
"They do a lot of lineout drives, a lot of six-mans with the loose forward at halfback, so we have taken the same focus this week as the last two in Africa. Compete, try to get up and make it messy and disrupt their kicking game and ability to get the backs going."
The irony of course is that as much as Thrush and fellow lock Mark Reddish negated the Stormers lineout in Cape Town, the winning try came from a single slip up near fulltime when flanker Deon Fourie was driven over.
Thrush is still angry and is vowing there will be no repeat against the Brumbies.
"It was pretty heart-breaking to be fair ... we're still pretty pissed off about it. The first lineout we put in a good effort and drove them back probably 15 metres and to not do it again ... "
What really rankles with Thrush is the up and down nature of the Hurricanes' set piece, an issue that has already reared its head in the opening fortnight.
"Classic Hurricanes teams go up, then go down and need a slap in the face to get going again. We've talked as a forward pack, we've made some progress and we have to keep it going.
"The first 20-30 minutes against the Sharks we were disappointed with the scrum, but the way we moved forward and come back against the Stormers, that last try still doesn't sit well with me, but I think we're moving in the right direction."
Another Hurricane moving in the right direction is fullback James Marshall, who will be playing his first match in eight months after surgery on his hips last August.
Marshall started four times in 2013 including the final match against the Crusaders, but hasn't played a minute since and wasn't used in South Africa where he was in the reserves for the Hurricanes' opening two matches.
He replaces Marty Banks, who moves to the bench, but will be expected to perform a similar role in providing a second pivot to complement first five-eighth Beauden Barrett.