Defence, converting opportunities vital

Aaron Mauger
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger.
The Highlanders will have to go against the form book to win tonight but nothing is out of reach.

The Highlanders have won only once at the stadium in Addington.

It has had various names over the years and is now called Orangetheory Stadium.

The visiting side's only win was in 2015 when it downed the Crusaders 25-20, Waisake Naholo scoring twice for the Highlanders.

Apart from that it has been a tough road in Christchurch.

It does not really suit the Highlanders - the ground is tight, the conditions always slippery and it is guaranteed to be cold. The one-eyed crowd does not help and the Crusaders tend to get the calls.

Compare that to the tinder-dry surface at Forsyth Barr Stadium and its wide open spaces and the southern side will find it tough.

The Highlanders will need to tighten up on defence and get off to a good start. The team also needs to convert chances when they come along.

The onus at the start of the season was to cure the away-game blues. It was poor away from home last year and, unfortunately, this year has not been much better.

It beat the Chiefs at the start of the season and the Sunwolves back in April but lost its other six games away from home.

Admittedly in a couple of these, such as the defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington, it was very unlucky.

But come the knockout stage of the season, it is all about being best on the day. Past records mean little.

The Highlanders have match winners in their side such as Naholo, Ben Smith and Rob Thompson, while up front the steel of players such as Liam Squire, Jackson Hemopo and Liam Coltman should come to the fore.

To win tonight, the side has to be sharp in everything it does, maintain its composure and keep its discipline.

 

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