Highlanders first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga.
The focus will not be all on the ball when the
Highlanders are in Wanaka this week, and team management
believes that approach should pay dividends on the scoreboard
throughout the season.
Mixed in with mauls and rucks will be barbecues and swims as
the Highlanders relax off the pitch.
The southern franchise's players and coaching team travelled
to Wanaka yesterday and will spend the week in the town. It
will not just be for training as there will also be time for
Highlanders assistant coach Jon Preston said although he was
new to the side the week in Wanaka was something started by
head coach Jamie Joseph over the past couple of years and
appears to have met with success.
Training would be in the morning and in the afternoon the
players, families and girlfriends would spend time together
to get to know each other better.
''It really is a good opportunity to get to know people. And
I think it does relate to what happens on the field. You
really get to know people, you become more of a group
together as opposed to a whole lot of individuals,'' he said.
The week started with a barbecue at the Upper Clutha Rugby
Club's grounds last night.
The side has come through its warm-up game against the
Crusaders well and, although some players had a few bangs and
bruises, there was nothing too serious.
The Highlanders had an encouraging 38-21 over the Crusaders
in Oamaru although the Christchurch-based side did not field
its top line-up.
The first game of the season which counts - against the
Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium - is now only 10 days away and
Preston said the intensity of the side was increasing.
''That is what you would expect. It is always a bit hard to
gauge if we are where we want to be at this stage of the
season until you actually play that first game. The way it is
the Chiefs are going to be the benchmark.
''But I would say we are not feeling unhappy at where we
The side will remain in Wanaka until early on Friday when it
travels over the Crown Range to Queenstown to take on the
Blues on Friday night.
Preston said there was no decision to put the first-choice
side out against the Blues.
It was still a chance for players to press for a position and
get combinations working.
One player who impressed last Friday night was first
five-eighth Lima Sopoaga.
He has been cut down by injury in the past couple of years
but, at 22, still has time on his side to make an impact.