AUDIO: Mitchell gave Bulls 'another layer'
LISTEN as Highlanders assistant coach Mark Hammett talks about taking on the Bulls in a Super Rugby Round 11 encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
The Highlanders are at the start of a three-match streak facing South Africa's leading teams.
It starts against the Bulls in Pretoria this week and then the Sharks in Durban the following week, before heading back to Dunedin where the Lions await them - the SA franchise having been in Australasia for nearly a month already.
Hammett, as all coaches tend to do, said their focus is on the Bulls this week.
He pointed out that the Pretoria-based franchise has not neglected their traditional strengths, despite being coached by former All Black mentor John Mitchell.
"Their set-piece and where they like to get dominance, is still as evident as it ever was,"Hammett said, when asked what influence the New Zealander's arrival in Pretoria has had on the Bulls.
"Under Mitch [John Mitchell] they throw the ball around a wee bit more and they have more confidence to do that.
"That just adds another layer to the dangers.
"[However,] we're confident that we know what they are likely to bring.
"They will be a good challenge for us with their forward pack."
Hammett was measured in his response when asked if SA teams still pose the same threats to Kiwi franchises, given the slump in form most SA teams have undergone in recent years.
"We have huge respect for the South African teams," he said, adding: "They are not unlike us, in terms of their mentality and passion for the game.
"It is a bit of an unknown as to where their teams are, we are very respectful [of the SA teams]."
* Meanwhile it was revealed that Highlanders and All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire is in doubt for the June test series against France - due to a setback in his recovery from a broken thumb.
Squire, who hasn't played since he fractured the hand against the Crusaders in March, was expected to return against the Sharks in Durban next weekend.
However, Hammett revealed that Squire will be sidelined for another six weeks.
"He had his cast taken off and another scan revealed it hadn't quite set, how it was supposed to," Hammett said.
"Unfortunately, it had to be reset, and that effectively reset the start date, as well."
By Jan de Koning