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Bateman gets pressure from home

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Friday, April 20, 2012    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Bateman will come up against his old team for the first time on Saturday night when the Hurricanes host last year's finalists at Westpac Stadium.

The text messages have been flowing ahead of a match Bateman admits has been the one he has most been looking forward to since his return from Japan.

"I've had a few texts this week asking if I'm going to be wearing head gear and a box and what not," he said laughing. "My sister is the fiancée of Willie Heinz, the halfback, so he's been sending me a few texts.

"A few of the other boys have been as well. It will be good. Hopefully there are bragging rights after this game.

"I'm a bit nervous but excited. Playing against your mates and having family from down there, you want to go well. I'm usually reasonably nervous at certain times anyway but hopefully I can buckle that up and put in a good performance."

There were probably a few people who were surprised that Bateman chose not to return to the franchise he played 35 games for before heading to Japan in 2010.

Others would have been just as surprised he chose the Hurricanes, especially after the tumultuous, acrimonious year the Wellington-based team had in 2011 which resulted in the departure of All Blacks Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu and Hosea Gear.

In the end Bateman said it came down to making a fresh start and where he would get the most game time - and he saw more opportunities at a franchise that was rebuilding.

"The better opportunity for me was to come here in that there was a better spot for me here," the 24-year-old explained.

"Hammer [Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett] was the first one to approach me from Japan.

"I had a lot of talks with him about things and it just seemed like the right place to come. It was a new start. He talked a lot about the exciting, young talent coming through and to be honest I wasn't really happy with the way it finished up at the Crusaders in my last season.

"When I decided to go to Japan those opportunities moved away a little bit and I didn't know if it was still going to be there when I got back."

But Bateman stresses there is no bitterness or resentment with the Crusaders.

"I keep in touch with a lot of the guys down there and the coaches still as well. There was nothing bitter at all. It just seemed to me like a better opportunity to come here to the Hurricanes."

The former New Zealand Maori player will certainly get a good test of his skills this weekend with Daniel Carter named at second-five in his 100th game for the Crusaders.

"He played there last week and went well," said Bateman. "I've obviously played a lot with him inside me and he probably knows me reasonably well and I know him reasonably well. It should be a good battle I think."

But Bateman was unsure whether the Crusaders would adopt the same kick-heavy game plan they used against the Stormers - even with the Tom Taylor-Carter pairing - given the counter-attacking ability of Andre Taylor, Cory Jane and Julian Savea.

"They've got a right-foot, left-foot combination and they used that quite well against the Stormers but whether they use that against us is a different story," said the Hurricanes back.

"We've got a good back three that carry the ball really well. I think they will kick and they'll want to put pressure on the ruck and turn the ball over.

"But anyone that gives you the ball lets us control the game. If they are kicking aimlessly then hopefully we can make the most of it."