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Black gets Hurricanes chance at last

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Lynn McConnell     19 May 2017     Getty Images

While the Cheetahs are well out of playoffs running, the points table doesn't tell the story of their competitiveness and scoring abilities and Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd is mindful of that.

QUICK TAP: HURRICANES v CHEETAHS PREVIEW

But he is also aware that to arrive at the play-offs in optimum touch, his side needs players with game time and exposure to the team plan while also keeping key players fresh.

Otere Black's start at first five-eighths this week is a case in point, as is the placement of Beauden Barrett at fullback to take some pressure off his younger brother Jordie.

Boyd said in a perfect world Jordie Barrett would have got more rest than he has got and his game exposure would have been a bit more gradual had not Nehe Milner-Skudder been injured early in the campaign. That had given Barrett an opportunity which he had taken well.

"He's probably had more minutes than I would have liked him to have had to date. He's done really well," Boyd said.

In their preparation for the Cheetahs the Hurricanes had worked on areas of concern exposed by the Crusaders last weekend.

"The bits that failed at the weekend we have put a fair bit of time into and obviously the Cheetahs pose a different challenge to what the Crusaders did. They're a very, very good attacking side. We've worked out that New Zealand sides have conceded 31 points on average to the Cheetahs so they can score tries; they're very good on that side of the ball," he said.

It had been a different case when they didn't have the ball and probably of all the South African sides they played closest to the New Zealand style of game, he said.

"They're going to be a handful and their lineout, particularly their defensive lineout, is very good. They've got a good drive and both sides of the ball the lineout is a big weapon."
Black said his start had been a long time coming, he hadn't started since the opening round and he was looking forward the chance to start on Saturday.

Playing second fiddle to Beauden Barrett meant he got a good chance to study the World Rugby player of the year, not only in how he handles on-field match-day play, but also his preparation during the week.

"I learn a lot from watching him during the week, it is a bonus that I get to have," he said.

Black said he wasn't feeling any pressure stepping into the role and added that he didn't think he had to prove anything to anyone.

"I feel like I've done a pretty good job off the bench for this team and it's just the number on my jersey that changes and the minutes I play, but other than that I don't see it as a nervous game. More exciting than anything," he said.

They had studied the Cheetahs and realised that there were at least a couple of games against quality opposition where they should have won and it was a big challenge, especially after the disappointing result to the Crusaders.

The Cheetahs played a style similar to the Hurricanes so Black was expecting a good game as a consequence. The Hurricanes would be looking to put a good performance together for home fans before they head to South Africa, he said.