Side deserves its place in quarterfinals, Mauger says

Aaron Mauger
Aaron Mauger
Defence wins Super Rugby playoffs and Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger has set the tone early.

His side sneaked into tomorrow’s quarterfinal against the Crusaders with six wins and three draws from 16 games.

The ninth, 10th, and 11th-placed teams all achieved more wins and that has led to some suggestions the Highlanders were fortunate to feature in the playoffs.

The mild-mannered Mauger bristled at suggestions his side was lucky and got on the defensive.

‘‘It hasn’t been a perfect year for us but we’ve played
some really good footy,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve had a couple of results that haven’t gone our way but could have easily gone our way.

‘‘We’ve had people sticking the knife in and people have been happy to do that.

‘‘But we are confident with our game and where it is at.

‘‘It’s reset time when we go there [Christchurch].

‘‘The scoreboard is nil-all at the moment and we give ourselves the best chance to go and have a crack.

‘‘We know we are a good side. We’ve got the men to go and do the job and there is a lot of belief in that. That is what’s most important.’’

A quick look at the side Mauger has named is a firm reminder of the threat they will present a quality Crusaders team.

All Black outside back Ben Smith has returned from a seven-week injury lay-off to bolster the side.

The likes of Liam Squire, Jackson Hemopo and Waisake Naholo have all returned from injuries recently as well.

The Highlanders are able to field close to a full-strength team.

‘‘It’s exciting, Mauger said.

‘‘We haven’t had that luxury all year really.

‘‘Just look at the influence Liam Squire has had back in the mix over the last couple of weeks.

‘‘Waisake is back to full fitness as well and playing his best footy.

‘‘Throw Ben Smith in to the mix and there is a lot of other guys that are a bit more experienced now.

‘‘I feel we’re in a pretty good place.’’

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