Highlanders focusing on what they have to do

The Highlanders are focusing on their won game ahead of tonight's playoff against the star...
The Highlanders are focusing on their won game ahead of tonight's playoff against the star-studded Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images
It has not got anywhere near the Queensland league team levels but the Highlanders do not want to talk about what is coming up against them in Christchurch tonight.

Sure, it may be the two-time defending Crusaders - a team stacked with All Blacks and good enough to have All Blacks on the bench, but to the Highlanders it is all about them - what they can do and how they can play well enough to get a victory.

In the first State of Origin match earlier this month, Queensland coach Kevin Walters ruled his players not utter the name of their opponent - New South Wales. It was a bit of a joke but the Canetoads ended up winning so it worked for Walters.

The Highlanders have not gone as far as Walters but the side is not thinking about the red and black men.

To do well, the Highlanders need to get on the front foot, cut out the mistakes and, most importantly, score points when the chances come.

So to some extent the focus makes sense - you can only control the controllables is the preferred term.

But talk is just that - talk. The onus is on getting the team to play out of its skin, which is what it has to do.

Highlanders captain Ben Smith said the side has had great week and was keen to just get out on the park and do the business.

"It is quarterfinal time so if you don't front up and play good footy you go home.

"The guys are really excited to go out there and play really well in our game and go forward in this competition," Smith said.

"We have to nail our game. We have plans in place. Obviously in Christchurch it could be a bit of a wet night. We have just concentrated on ourselves this week.

"We have had to tweak our game a bit but we need to put them under pressure.

"The only thing we can do is concentrate on what we can do ... put our game out on the field.

"In the past couple of weeks this group, especially in our defence, we have applied a bit more pressure and that is going to be crucial."

Converting the big moments will be key for the side.

It has not been great at this all year but the side showed signs last week - admittedly against a woeful Waratahs outfit - its attack is showing more signs of accuracy and life.

Smith was not thinking about the possibility of about to play his final game in a Highlanders jersey - along with plenty of others -as the mindset of the team was to keep winning and everything would take care of itself.

The weather forecast for Christchurch tonight is for fine and clear conditions but it is going to be chilly with with a minimum of 2degC forecast.

Highlanders v Crusaders 

Christchurch, 7.35pm 

Highlanders: Ben Smith (captain), Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson, Tei Walden, Sio Tomkinson, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Shannon Frizell, Kayne Hammington, Marty Banks, Elliot Dixon.

Crusaders: David Havili, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Whetu Douglas, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

 

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