Tough start puts early pressure on Hurricanes

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Lynn McConnell     23 Feb 2018     Getty Images

It is the first time the side have had to confront the South Africa-Argentina leg in the competition but it is compounded by having to play the Crusaders in the first game back in New Zealand.

All the advice he had received pointed to the combination being 'extraordinarily tough'.

"It's probably the toughest three weeks that the Hurricanes have ever had to endure and we're very mindful of that so it's a tough ask, but we're happy to embrace it at the start of the season," he said.

The Bulls were something of an unknown with changes in their coaching group and a different looking squad.

"What we know of them is that they are bloody hard to beat at Loftus, they'll come out chewing glass and breathing fire, and if we don't put that physicality to bed it will be a very long day at the office.

"It's absolutely not a game that we are under-estimating," he said.

Crucial to Bulls strategy will be Springboks first five-eighths Handre Pollard, who is back in action after a series of injury frustrations, and Boyd is well aware of his threat.

"He's world-class when he's on his game. He's a big emotional part for them and also plays a big physical part. He's got a massive boot and I suspect they'll try and play a little bit of territory against us at times and he'll be very good at that.

"He's a big fellow for a 10 so I suspect there's going to be a bit of traffic coming down Ihaia's [West] channel but we're prepared for that. He's influential in that team but I think the spirit and enthusiasm that that group will bring will be the thing that we are going to have to be mindful of," he said.

Boyd was confident starting with West after Beauden Barrett had joined the side late as a result of two weddings he attended last weekend.

He had been watching West since he was at Napier Boys' High School as a 16-year-old.

"We have very high expectations of his contribution to our team this year and I think the role and the position he will assume for us is well suited to his skill set and his temperament. We're excited to have him here," he said.

Boyd was also happy with the way No.8 Gareth Evans, another important player in the No.8-halfback-first five-eighths hinge in the side, had settled into his role with the side having joined from the Highlanders.

"We're delighted to have him here, he's a bloody good team man, a really good guy. He also is a Hawke's Bay man and again I have been watching him play footy for a long time and I have a lot of respect for Gareth.

"He's come in and done a really good job for us and that loose forward area with Gareth and Brad [Shields] and Blade Thomson off the bench and Ardie [Savea], and we've got two or three guys at home who I think are really good in that space as well, so it's a good area for us," he said.

Boyd clarified hooker Asafo Aumua's absence from the tour by saying the major reason he wasn't with the side was because he popped a rib in training.

"If there's ever a silver lining, the upside for us is Asafo's and Jeff Toomaga-Allen's two weeks [leave during the season as All Blacks] will be done because they are not here," he said.

"That wouldn't have been our choice but that's how it has panned out."

Aumua should be available for selection to play the Crusaders in round three and Toomaga-Allen would be either for the Crusaders or, after the bye in round four, for the fifth round game against the Highlanders.