Highlanders keen to maintain momentum

We all love to bask in glory but it is time to move on.

The Highlanders have quickly moved focus to the Chiefs and have put the big win over the Crusaders behind them.

The Chiefs arrive in town with two wins in a row on the board and will be looking for the hat-trick.

They may have lost their co-captain in Sam Cane but they have a spring in their step.

Highlanders coach Tony Brown said the Chiefs would be a different proposition this week.

"Playing at home is a different challenge for us. It is really important for us we start again and get our preparation right, bring new energy into the side with a couple of changes," he said.

"We will try and replicate the same performance [as last week].

"The thing for us, the most important thing for us, is about momentum going into the back end of this comp.

"If we can back up last week’s win with another quality performance then we are a shot at trying to make the final."

The Highlanders have not lost to the Chiefs since the sides played in Suva in 2018. They drew 31-all in 2019 at Forsyth Barr Stadium and since then the Highlanders have won all three games between the teams.

The visiting side had a 39-23 win over the Chiefs a month ago in Hamilton when it was on fire in the second half.

More of that is needed tonight.

The Highlanders also need to start getting back to making Forsyth Barr Stadium a fortress.

They racked up 13 straight wins over three seasons from 2016-2018 under the roof but in their last 14 games at the stadium they have won only five games.

They have lost both games in Dunedin this year.

The team will know it must be on its game against the Chiefs who are well led by Damian McKenzie at fullback while halfback and captain Brad Weber always enjoys a trip back to Dunedin.

The Highlanders will look to show some muscle up front and then get the backs involved.

Japanese No 8 Kazuki Himeno was in the news last week through no fault of his own but it got glazed over that he had a great game and was all
over the paddock.

Another 80 minutes like that would be just what the Highlanders want.

Scott Gregory made strides last week and gets a chance at second five-eighth. He played there a couple of times for Northland in his first season at 2018.

There was much to admire about his physicality last week and will again look to bring this to the fore against what is bound to be a physical Chiefs backline.

The game will be officiated by Ben O’Keeffe and after a series of referee incidents over the past few weeks, one hopes not much mention is made of the University of Otago-educated optometrist.

  • Highlanders v Chiefs, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 7.05pm

Highlanders: Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngatungane Punivai, Sio Tomkinson, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (co-c), Kazuki Himeno, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Bryn Evans, Josh Hohneck, Ash Dixon (co-c), Ethan De Groot. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Billy Harmon, Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Hugh Renton
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Kaleb Trask, Brad Weber (c), Luke Jacobson, Kaylum Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Joe Apikotoa, Samipeni Finau, Pita Gus Sowakula, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (Wellington)

 

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