Highlanders ‘ready to go’ against Crusaders

Clarke Dermody
Clarke Dermody
The pre-season is over - thoughts and minds now turn to the real business in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The Highlanders are ready and willing to get into the game.

First on the agenda are the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin this Friday night.

The sides played a pre-season game just 11 days ago.

The Highlanders lost that match 28-26 but gained some confidence from a convincing 35-12 win over the Hurricanes in Alexandra last Friday night.

Highlanders assistant coach Clarke Dermody said there was a lot to like about the game in Alexandra.

"It was a really good hitout for us to have.

"Obviously we were pleased with the second half. The Hurricanes played really well in the first half and put us under a lot of pressure," he said.

"But to only be down by five points just before the end of the first half with no ball and no territory was really pleasing for our defence."

He said in the second half the side had more territory and kept the ball in front of its forwards.

The lineout was poor in the first half and Dermody said they had looked at that and found ways to get it better.

A new season brings more focus on the game. Dermody said referees always increased focus on the breakdown and the tackle.

"It is entry into the breakdown, clean-outs, so not targeting heads and things like that. It is around the safety of players. It is hard in games when someone has got their head on the ball but technically we can coach around that."

The Crusaders were the benchmark and would be a good test for the Highlanders.

"This competition, as we found out last year, is over pretty quick so every game is a big one so we will treat it the way it is."

Each member of last year’s All Black squad has had just 40 minutes of action in pre-season so most of the Crusaders who take the field on Saturday will have had only half a game under their belts.

But Dermody is not expecting an under-done Crusaders side.

"Good players are good players. It doesn’t matter how much pre-season they’ve had, how much rugby they’ve had. They’ll be right on.

"Our guys are ready to go. While pre-season has been short it’s been pretty intense. You could tell leading into the last week they were ready for playing."

Centre Fetuli Paea injured his ankle in Alexandra and was in a moon boot but that was precautionary. More would be known about his injury in the coming days.

Japanese loose forward Kazumi Himeno was released from isolation on Sunday and is getting into his work. Two weeks stuck in a room meant he was unavailable for this week.

The Highlanders Bravehearts will take on the Crusaders Knights in a match at Pleasant Point on Saturday but the game may be too early for Himeno.

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