No aspirations to be Crusaders

The Crusaders are top of the pile and are good at what they do but there is no way the Highlanders are going to turn into them.

Highlanders assistant coach Mark Hammett, who played and then helped coach at the Christchurch-based franchise, said yesterday there was much to admire about the Crusaders but the Highlanders were following their own path.

Mark Hammett.
Mark Hammett.

''We want to stay being the Highlanders. You saw some pretty awesome tries [last week] and the way we play,'' he said.

''Every team is aiming to be clinical. It is not a case of not wanting to be clinical. Of course we want to be clinical. But that comes with experience and we are getting there. And we need to get there to move through into the competition.''

''We are 100% of what we want to be, and who we are. We do some things really, really well.''

The Highlanders lost 45-22 to the Crusaders in Christchurch last Friday night but Hammett said there was plenty to like about the display.

''We slowed the ball for them. Showed some good attack, made some good line breaks. Lots of things we wanted to achieve we did. But it came down to not holding our defensive line as long as we needed to.

''Across the board we were pretty happy with how we went. Maybe we should have taken points early on. You talk about being clinical, it is not so much about your skill set but maybe decision-making. We always will back our leaders if they think they have the wood on them.''

The game against the Crusaders is now history and the Rebels from Melbourne await at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.

The equation for the Rebels is easy. Win and they are in the playoffs. But lose and the side is left open to missing out altogether. With their fate on the line, Hammett is expecting plenty of vigour from the Melbourne-based side.

''We have talked about that, they have the opportunity to make history. They are a big side, some of their unpredictability makes them dangerous. We are under no illusions. I'm sure they will be putting out as strong a side as possible.''

Hammett confirmed prop Siate Tokolahi is gone for the season with a knee injury and is due to have an operation tomorrow.

Utility back Richard Buckman strained his hamstring against the Crusaders and is unlikely to front against the Rebels.

Hammett also confirmed some players were due for a rest and would also miss the match against the Rebels.

It will be the final home game of the year for the Highlanders so there was an incentive to play well for the home team.

''For some players who maybe moving on or who are moving on, it is a big game. While it is not the focus it is in the back of our mind for those guys.''

After Saturday it is playoffs and the Highlanders could be off to Sydney, South Africa or South America come Sunday.

Hammett said the side was keeping an eye on the playoffs.

''We have got to. We'd be mad if we are not thinking about winning the competition. That is why we are here - to win the competition. We are not here to make up the numbers. That is critical in our thinking and has been in the last two weeks.''


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