Inexperienced Waratahs will be tougher

Highlanders captain Ben Smith at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Highlanders captain Ben Smith at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The Waratahs have been stripped of many of their stars but they will be even more of a handful, the Highlanders believe.

The sides will duel it out in a do-or-die final regular-season game in Invercargill on Friday night. The Highlanders are out to score a resounding win, bag five competition points and a shot at making the playoffs.

That cause appeared to be helped when the Waratahs announced they would resting many of their key players because of a previous agreement with the Wallabies.

Captain and flanker Michael Hooper, lock Rob Simmons, prop Sekope Kepu, first five-eighth Bernard Foley and utility back Kurtley Beale are all likely to miss the match.

The absence of those players leaves the Waratahs short of experience but Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney said it would if anything strengthen the Australian side when it plays in Invercargill on Friday night.

''They will be a tougher team - 100%. If those guys don't come then there are going to be some young, hungry guys who will want to take their opportunity,'' Delaney said.

''You know what it is like when you get some young, enthusiastic players out there. They give a 100% and that is what we are going to get.

''They are going to give themselves their best chance to finish their season well and the reality is whoever turns up will be enthusiastic and keen.''

Delaney said all the Highlanders players, apart from those with long-term injuries, were available. Skipper Ben Smith trained freely yesterday and appears to be over his hamstring injury. Midfielder Tei Walden also got through a full session.

The Highlanders will be relying on other teams to do them a favour but Delaney said the team was not worrying about that.

''There is one thing that is in our control and that is how we perform on Friday night. That is the only thing which is relevant and in our control. You could get the calculator out, or the Duckworth-Lewis method if you need something a bit more complicated, but the reality is we have got a game Friday night. If we can do well there then good but that is all we can control.''

He confirmed the side was after five competition points. It was not just about attack as a try-scoring bonus point was about scoring three more tries than the opposition.

''Our focus will be to go out and give ourselves the best chance and that is going to be scoring as many tries as we can.''

He said with the weather expected to be damp in Invercargill the home side would have to be accurate.

The Waratahs are one of only two teams to beat the Crusaders and they did that on a wet night in Sydney. So playing in the rain does not appear to worry the visiting side.

In a wet-weather game, the ball and the conditions have to be respected and the game can become a battle of territory. Kick offs are also important.

''We have done some work on the whole exit strategy. That is a really important part of a wet weather games. Hopefully, we get that right. But the work is going into it. I see no reason why we will not do well.''

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