Tim Bateman puts heat on Hurricanes backline
Tim Bateman has thrown down the gauntlet to the Hurricanes backs to get their Super Rugby season back on track.
The experienced second five-eighth will makes a much-needed entry to the season against the Crusaders tomorrow in a position that's been an Achilles heel for the Hurricanes this season.
And Bateman made no secret of the fact a back division that's kicked, passed and tackled poorly through much of the opening five matches of the season needed to do more with the ball their pack had been providing.
"The Crusaders have an All Black forward pack that's been pretty dominant in their games and every week we go in saying the forwards have to win the game for us, but I think its the backs this week who have to step up," he said.
"I want us to put as much pressure as possible on their backline. Our forwards have been huge the last few games and the backs haven't matched that. They need to step up."
Bateman talks common sense and the fact of the matter is the Crusaders backs haven't been much chop this year, but their forward pack remains a menace.
There's little doubt the Hurricanes best chance of breathing some life into their season will not be to challenge the southerners to an arm-wrestle and the former Crusader knows it.
He returns to a backline that's had moments of brilliance, but kicked with all the accuracy of a toddler bobbing for apples.
Bateman was as frustrated as anyone to see his team-mates play into the Highlanders hands by kicking too much ball away and believes he can improve that area of the game without actually putting boot to ball.
"My role there is pretty much to be our kicker's eyes, to take the heat off them and make their decisions for them when it comes to kicking," he said. "They don't have to worry about anything other than executing rather than thinking about where the space will be. I'll try to call that space and really drive our chase line and they can worry about just executing."
First five-eighth Beauden Barrett and halfback TJ Perenara have had the need to kick either very long, or out, drilled into them this week.
But with Israel Dagg at fullback for the Crusaders a game of force-back will be fruitless and his opposite Andre Taylor gives the Hurricanes the perfect starting point for a ground attack.
One player who won't be part of the counter-attack is wing Cory Jane, who was ruled out with an ankle injury for the second week running.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett clarified Jane's comment earlier in the week that he was fit and available for selection.
"That's CJ isn't it. He'd walk out with a broken leg and say he would be fit for the weekend. That's the great thing about him, that's his childish nature around enjoying the game and wanting to be out there.
"But as you've seen he hasn't been training all week. He's done some straight line running, but he's not right."
Hammett also confirmed he would not have picked Jane for the last match and had asked him to work on a few technical aspects of his game that had fallen away when he missed most of last year with injury.
"He spent a long time on the sidelines, so we just sat down and talked about things. I don't need CJ to be as good as those other guys technically because what he offers us leadership wise and what he offers in that back three is quite priceless at times, but he still needs to, like all players, keep working on his game."
Hammett said the return of Blade Thomson from a neck injury at No 8 and lock Jeremy Thrush after missing the last match due to a personal commitment were easy decisions, particularly considering the Crusaders lineout height.
Likewise, Taylor was a straightforward swap at fullback after Marty Banks had an off night in Dunedin.