Li keen to get ball in his hands

Highlanders winger Tevita Li runs the ball up during a training session at Logan Park earlier...
Highlanders winger Tevita Li runs the ball up during a training session at Logan Park earlier this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Highlanders winger Tevita Li looks poised to get a little help on the flank this weekend.

The franchise yesterday confirmed it has called in former Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne as a short-term replacement.

His arrival takes the team's stock of specialist wingers to two. Li has been on his own since All Black Waisake Naholo was ruled out with a knee injury earlier this month.

Fijian winger Tevita Nabura succumbed to a knee injury in early February and was ruled out for the season.

Utility back Matt Faddes has slotted in on the right flank for the past two matches but he pulled up lame in the game against Crusaders on Friday night.

That could pave the way for the 31-year-old Osborne to add to his 51 appearances for the franchise when the Highlanders host the Blues in a crucial match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.

Back-up fullback Josh McKay is potentially an option as well. Whatever mix the Highlanders opt for, you can ink in Li's name.

He will surely start on one flank and he is hoping to see more of the ball.

"I just feel like there is a few things in my game I want to improve on,'' Li said when asked about his form.

"I just want to get the ball in my hands and attack a bit more.''

He has been concentrating on lifting his work rate off the ball and "popping up wherever I can and not just standing on the wing yelling for it''.

It has not been easy for the Highlanders' wingers this season.

The midfield has seen more combinations that it takes to solve the Rubik's Cube.

The Highlanders have not won since round two, so the team's playoffs prospects are teetering. A loss to the Blues would not ease the pressure.

"It is a little bit frustrating because we are not too far away,'' Li said.

"I think there is a little bit we can tidy up in our game.

"Just staying connected together and believing in each other because I believe we can turn the season around.

"We all believe that.

"We just got to go out there ... and play the footy that we like to play with speed and razzle.''

All Black Aaron Smith was seen running freely at training earlier this week and may make an earlier than expected return from his ankle complaint.

Luke Whitelock (calf strain) is shaping up as a starter.

Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney said on Tuesday Whitelock was on track but a call would be made later in the week.

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