Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Bateman returns to ignite Canes

Tim Bateman. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Bateman. Photo / Getty Images

Tim Bateman doesn't see himself as the saviour of the Hurricanes' backline.

After missing the first five games of the season with a medial ligament tear in his knee, the second-five will make his maiden appearance of 2014 for the Hurricanes against the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight.

Despite starting the season 1-4, the Hurricanes have never been thoroughly beaten, which has given the side plenty of optimism even though they're 12th on the ladder.

Bateman is keeping his own expectations tempered as he looks to a contest against his former side.

"I don't want to try and set the world on fire," the 26-year-old said. "But I want to try and do my job really well and help everyone else become better.

"I want to be the gel in there and try and get us going because when we are going it's pretty dangerous."

As Bateman alluded to, getting going has been one of the Hurricanes' biggest struggles this season.

They are competitive enough in the forwards, although their scrum is still a minor concern, but their backline hasn't fired, which doesn't make sense considering the number of international players they have on their books.

Game plans aren't sticking and they look like a side who don't know what they're trying to achieve, but with the insertion of Andre Taylor at fullback, they will have more spark tonight.

Bateman won't provide a lot of flash but his game is built around steady play, clear communication and vision.

"He just offers so much leadership and decision-making and it's maybe something we've just been a bit short of in terms of the leaders that have been out due to injury," Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett said. "So it's nice to have him back in there and just directing traffic."

Given the Hurricanes are still without key loose forwards Victor Vito and Brad Shields, Bateman's return will provide another voice of reason on the paddock and he will help shore up a leaky midfield, which has been a defensive liability this season.

After meeting the Crusaders tonight the Hurricanes host the Bulls in Napier next weekend and they need to find a way to get in the winner's circle sooner than later or their campaign will be dead in the water.

- NZ Herald

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