Shields happy with captaincy role

Getty Images

Friday, February 23, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Facing his last season with the side having announced his departure for England at the end of the campaign, Shields was honoured to be asked to take on the job until squad captain Dane Coles can be reconsidered for selection.

Shields was happy with how the team was placed and the pre-season had been very good.

"We're miles ahead of where we have been in the past and that is really encouraging," he said.

Being away in Pretoria and Argentina for the first two rounds also provided bonding time for the side.

He was confident the side had done the work in the lead-up to the Bulls' game and was hopeful that would be reflected in a win on Sunday.

Recent seasons, including the title win in 2016, had imbued the side with more confidence and they believed they were finals contenders again this year. In the past there was a feeling the side would be happy enough to make finals but they had advanced beyond that and they wanted to push for semi-finals and finals every year.

"We've worked hard towards that and every year we have worked hard to get into that position and that's our expectation now and all the boys are jumping on board which is really good," he said.

Having made the announcement that he will be taking up an English contract at the end of the season, Shield said he had no problems being fully committed to the Hurricanes campaign and what was happening in the future would be sorted out later in the year.

With former Highlander Gareth Evans joining the loose forward combination, the Hawke's Bay native had brought skills and physicality that suited the Hurricanes' approach.

"To be fair if we put any loose forward in any position we can probably guarantee they are going to do a job and same with the guys back in New Zealand," he said.

Whoever got the chance to play would take the opportunity to own their jersey and the others had faith that they would do their job.

"And nothing's changed with Gareth, he's got some great skills and it's to have a player of his calibre on board," he said.

Shields wasn't under-estimating the Bulls team, and the effects of Loftus Versfeld, previously a graveyard for visiting teams.

"Every time they run out on field, and their crowd gets involved and it's the first game of the season so they're going to be pretty hyped up. I've only been lucky enough to win there a couple of times and it's going to be tough, not just a 60-minute performance. It needs to be 80 because these sorts of teams like the Bulls are big, strong and fast and when they get their crowd behind them it is a tough old day at the office," he said.