Highlanders wary of improving Drua scrum

Highlanders assistant coach Kenny Lynn. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Highlanders assistant coach Kenny Lynn. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The Fijian Drua are a dangerous attacking side.

And now they can scrum too.

That could be a big problem for the Highlanders in Dunedin this weekend.

They have an opportunity to essentially sew up a spot in the Super Rugby Pacific’s playoffs with a win on Sunday.

Highlanders assistant coach Kenny Lynn said that is where the focus quickly shifted to following the 47-13 loss to the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday.

"It is a big opportunity to qualify for the [playoffs]," Lynn said.

"It is the last home game for us. Put that together with it being seven versus eight and it is just an awesome opportunity to solidify a spot and then after that who knows.

"It is huge for them as well."

Sure is. The Drua (21 points) are in the hunt to make the playoffs courtesy of five wins at home this season.

The Highlanders (23 points) also have five wins from 12 round-robin games. But they have picked up two more bonus points than their rival.

The Highlanders are also at home and the Drua have not won away from Fiji in 2024.

Lynn has been impressed with the improvements the Drua have made up front.

Their scrum is operating at a 91% success rate — that is 5% better than the next best scrum and a lot better than the
Highlanders, who have the lowest success rate in the
competition at 72%.

" Away they have not had a win but looking at them they are obviously a very dangerous team," Lynn said.

"They’ve got one of the best scrums in the competition statistically, so maybe traditionally you might think of Fiji teams as pure flair or off the cuff.

"But what we do know now is they have been coached really well over the years. A lot of this team — I think 18 have been in the Fiji World Cup squad — have good experience and are good players who now have the set piece on their side as well.

"They are a more complete team ... and we know they will be coming motivated, so we are well aware of what they are capable of."

The Drua are arguably still at their most dangerous during the unstructured periods of the game, they are just not as vulnerable at the set piece anymore, Lynn added.

The Highlanders picked up a couple of fresh injury concerns during the loss to the Blues.

First five Cameron Millar suffered a heavy blow and failed an HIA.

Lynn is hopeful he will be available but the prognosis is not as rosy for centre Tanielu Tele’a, who left the field with a suspected MCL injury.

"We are hopeful for Cam but Tanielu did not train today and his [knee] is not looking promising."

Their absence had a big impact in the second half of the game.

"That is something we reviewed today. For me, as a coach, I can help out by setting them up better for going through those kind of ‘what ifs?’.

"We were down points and [what] that looked like was throwing it wide. We were pretty lateral, more than what we had been because the first half was going well.

"Even though we were down on the score we were in the fight.

"We’d put them under pressure, the kicking game was working well but the disruption to the backline — we were disjointed but that was not down to anyone in particular. It was a combination of different injuries and guys out of position."