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Hurricanes

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Super RugbyIt was a disappointing weekend for South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby franchises, with the best result among the four teams that took to the field being a 43-43 draw by the Toyota Cheetahs.

The Vodacom Bulls faced the Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday in their first tour game with the hope of becoming the first domestic franchise to win in the Antipodes this season, but penalties conceded at crucial times allowed the hosts to come away with a 25-20 victory.

The Toyota Cheetahs, meanwhile, built up an encouraging 34-10 half-time lead against New Zealand conference leaders and defending champions, the Chiefs, in Bloemfontein, but they allowed the visitors to fight back strongly after the break and had to settle for a 43-43 draw.

At Ellis Park, the Lions produced a competitive first-half performance against the Crusaders to trail only 6-0 after 40 minutes, but the home side battled to shut out the seven time Vodacom Super Rugby champions in the second half, and went down 28-7.

In the last match of the weekend, the DHL Stormers’ woes continued in their first home game after their Australasian tour, as they suffered their fifth back-to-back defeat after going down 22-11 against the Waratahs in a physical encounter at DHL Newlands.

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Victor VitoBrad ShieldsHurricanesVictor Vito and Brad Shields will pull on the Hurricanes jersey for the first time this season, as their team gears up to face the Bulls at Napier’s McLean Park on Saturday.

Both loose forwards have been out since the beginning of the season with knee injuries, and this weekend’s match will be their first of the 2014 Super Rugby season.

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Flip van der MerweVleis EngelbrechtVictor MatfieldVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke included fit-again lock and regular captain, Flip van der Merwe, for his side’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes in Napier on Saturday.

The 67 cap lock takes over the captaincy and number five jersey from Victor Matfield in one of two changes to the starting pack that played against the Chiefs. In the other, Jacques Engelbrecht comes in at number 8, with Dewald Potgieter moving to the side of the scrum in place of Jacques du Plessis, who moves to the bench.

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Super RugbyThe Cell C Sharks continued to stamp their authority in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition this weekend as they secured their fifth victory of the season, while the Vodacom Bulls allowed a fourth successive victory to slip through their fingers and the DHL Stormers stumbled in their final tour match.

A strong second-half showing by the Cell C Sharks combined with a flawless kicking performance by flyhalf Fred Zeilinga, who punished the Waratahs indiscipline, earned the team a 32-10 victory at Growthpoint Kings Park.

The victory allowed the team to remain in pole position on the combined log table.

The Vodacom Bulls, meanwhile, had their fourth consecutive victory in their sights until the last minute of their clash against defending champions, the Chiefs, at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but a last-minute try by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden and successful conversion by Gareth Anscombe forced them to settle for a disappointing 34-34 draw.

The team departs for their Australasian tour knowing that their defence, in particular, needs attention after allowing a 31-15 lead to slip against the Chiefs.

In Brisbane, the DHL Stormers were unsuccessful in their mission to complete their Australasian tour with a victory against the Reds as they went down 22-17 following defeats against the Crusaders, Chiefs and Brumbies.

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HurricanesHurricanes coach Mark Hammett has received a boost with the news that three players will return from injury in time to face the Vodacom Bulls in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Napier on Saturday.

With the Bulls flying out only on Tuesday, as has worked for them in the past, the Canes will be looking to exploit the short turnaround and with the boost to their squad, manage to build on their 29-26 win over the Crusaders this past weekend.

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Mark HammettHurricanesWellington Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was delighted to be talking about rugby rather than his own precarious position after his team broke an eight-match Super Rugby losing streak with a victory over South Africa’s Cheetahs.

Three straight defeats to start the season, including a 29-21 home loss to the ACT Brumbies last weekend, had led to calls in the New Zealand media for Hammett’s head to roll.

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Super RugbyI find this rare. It is usually the Bulls supporters looking for suitable Jacaranda trees to hang the coaches. The Stormers have their way to show displeasure in their team. But for New Zealand coaches to be under early pressure is something rare.

Australian teams played 13 game and won 8 off them , New Zealand team played 13 won 5 and South African teams played 18 games thus far winning 9 off them. This number could have been worse for New Zealand if the Stormers were able to defend their small margin.

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes admitted they will have to work on their scrumming, ahead of their trip to Newlands and an encounter with the Stormers on Friday.

From the very first scrum – when the Sharks’ all-Springbok front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis marched them 10 metres back – the visitors were under the cosh in the set pieces.

With the assistance of some leeway by Australian referee Andrew Lees, the Hurricanes managed to frustrated the Sharks for the first hour.

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Super RugbyThe Australian and New Zealand teams start Super Rugby a week later than their South African rivals and the New Zealand teams kick the season off with a match in Christchurch between a former champion, the Crusaders and the current Champions the Chiefs.

Here we take a brief look at the New Zealand teams and what could lie ahead for the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.

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CrusadersHurricanesRight wing Johnny McNicholl ran in a hat-trick of tries as the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 40 / 15 in a Super Rugby pre-season match in Levin on Friday.

The Wellington-based side enjoyed the better of the first 40 minutes and led 15 / 14 at the half-time interval thanks to tries from flyhalf Beauden Barrett, fullback Marty Banks and prop Ben Franks.

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