Winning at home first priority for stand-in captain

Craig Newby will shortly resume normal service and stand-in captain Jason Macdonald has no intention of handing back a Highlanders side that does not have a win on the board.

Macdonald will run on to Carisbrook for the first time as Highlanders captain against the Waratahs tomorrow night, with Newby scheduled to return from a foot injury to play the Hurricanes next week.

Two narrow losses on the road have put added pressure on the Highlanders to get a win, and their hooker is confident a good performance awaits.

‘‘What better place to start than at home?'' Macdonald said yesterday.

‘‘We've had a good week. It's nice to be home. We're definitely hoping we get some good numbers in the crowd and we draw some strength from them. I know the Brumbies and the Reds did that against us.''

While those outside the squad have spent plenty of time debating the rough calls that have gone against the Highlanders in the opening rounds, the players have quickly focused on the next game.

‘‘We can't afford to let that sort of thing affect our confidence,'' Macdonald said.

‘‘They're a bit tough to swallow at the time but they happen. The boys have rallied well, I reckon.''

The Highlanders have showed plenty of encouraging signs in the early stages but Macdonald conceded they were disappointed with their scratchy efforts in the line-out.

‘‘How could we not be? That's traditionally one of our strengths and it hasn't been great.
‘‘I think maybe some things around the field have compounded themselves and our line-out has suffered.''

The Highlanders have gone back to their tall line-out in an effort to combat the Waratahs' outstanding locks and loose trio, moving Hayden Triggs back to blindside flanker, with Adam Thomson going to the bench and Isaac Ross returning to lock.

As expected, Mike Delany will make his Super 14 starting debut, replacing the suspended Daniel Bowden at first five-eighth.

Lock-flanker Hoani MacDonald was available for selection but has not made the bench, where the addition is Otago centre-winger Ben W Smith, called in from the wider training squad.

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