Landers looking for Luke to be like a lucky charm

Luke Whitelock. Photo: Getty
Luke Whitelock. Photo: Getty
Luke "tackle count" Whitelock will be cast in a new role tonight - the closer.

The Highlanders co-captain missed the disappointing loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch last week with a calf complaint.

But he has been named on the bench for tonight's must-win game against the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

He is the sort of guy you want on the field for all 80 minutes just because of the sheer amount of work he gets through.

If he is not at the top of the tackle count at the end of the game, he is not far down the list.

You do not leave the tractor in the shed when there is heavy lifting to be done. But a combination of his calf injury, and the Highlanders needing to find more energy during the back half of the game, means Whitelock will have to make his impact late.

It is an area where the team has fallen short, but only just. Four of the team's five losses have been awfully close.

The critical moments have been won by their opponents, and that is something the Highlanders are keen to reverse tonight.

The camp has focused on belief this week and highlighting what it has done well in the hope the team will be able to seize the initiative when it matters the most.

"We are creating a lot of opportunities," Whitelock said

"We are just talking about finishing those and converting them into points.

"And a little bit of decision-making around it is either releasing pressure, or we can just be a little bit better at stacking some of those moments and hopefully creating more pressure which will result in more points."

Whitelock will be joined on the bench by All Black halfback Aaron Smith, who has made a quicker than expected recovery from an ankle sprain.

Having players of their calibre bring fresh energy late will add an impact. That could be critical if the game is in the balance.

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