Highlanders looking to Chiefs’ formula

Highlanders scrum coach Clarke Dermody. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Highlanders scrum coach Clarke Dermody. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The Highlanders just knocked over one lengthy unbeaten home record.

Now they have to knock off one about twice as big.

The Highlanders notched their first win of the season in beating the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night.

In doing so, they ended a 10-match unbeaten run the Australian franchise had enjoyed on its home track.

The Highlanders have to climb an even higher mountain this week as the defending champion awaits in Christchurch.

The Crusaders have not lost at their stadium in Christchurch since going down to the British and Irish Lions in June 2017 — an unbeaten stretch of more than 20 matches.

Applied to just Super Rugby matches, the unbeaten run stretches back 32 matches and the last loss was to the Hurricanes at the back end of the 2016 season.

So travelling to the stadium in Addington on Friday night is a journey which does not end in success for many.

The Highlanders know that and are looking to find the recipe to put an end to that unbeaten record.

Highlanders assistant coach Clarke Dermody said to win in Christchurch would require a complete effort.

"They are a team that you have to keep under pressure for 80 minutes and I think the Chiefs have found the blueprint there. They did not give them much room. You can’t have an off moment. If you do they will go past you really quickly," Dermody said.

"For us it is about respecting how good they are — three-times defending champs — but we will go up there and throw a few punches as well.

"I don’t think they [Chiefs] allowed the Crusaders to settle. It was all legal and a physical game but is just whether you can do that for 80 minutes."

The Highlanders conceded three rolling maul tries to the Brumbies and Dermody said it was just a part of the game the team had to improve at defending against.

"There is no way you can get rid of the maul. It is part of the game. We acknowledge we were not good enough against the Brumbies and they were outstanding in that area and kept using it.

"I don’t think the Crusaders have had a maul try scored against them in three years, So mirror what they are doing.

"Potentially, they may give a few penalties away in that area but they have a mentality of not letting them through. But if someone does their job wrong then you suffer."

Dermody is in charge of the scrum and said he had been satisfied with the performance of that set piece so far.

"I think it has been acknowledged that we have lost a fair bit of experience and we had a young team going to Canberra.

"We talked about it during the week they hadn’t lost there for 10 games. But the win has given us a lot of belief. It has grown the group a lot."

"It was exactly what this team needed. We knew we did not play well against the Sharks so to be able to turn that around as quick as we did was great for the group."

Centre Rob Thompson had a scan on his injured quad yesterday and should be all right for the match in Christchurch.

Midfielder Tei Walden should also be available and prop Jeff Thwaites may play for the Highlanders Bravehearts team in Christchurch on Saturday as he comes back from injury.


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