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Highlanders wary of Rebels form

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Lynn McConnell     23 Mar 2016     Getty Images

The Highlanders are preparing in Manly ahead of flying to Melbourne on Friday.

The three were injured against the Lions in round three of Investec Super Rugby and weren't available for the Waratahs game at the weekend.

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Backs coach Tony Brown was pleased to have all three available as they had each been playing well before they suffered their injuries.

In the wash-up from the Waratahs game where the Highlanders held off a fast-finishing home team for a 30-26 win, Brown said the side had let pressure and intensity off which hadn't been helped by some refereeing calls which had stopped the Highlanders' momentum and gave it all to the Waratahs.

Brown said the pre-game plan had been to put the Waratahs under pressure and for 60 minutes that had worked well but with the easing of their own intensity the Waratahs had proven hard to stop once they got going.

While the Rebels are one of the unfashionable Australian sides, attempting to do their thing in AFL-dominated territory, they were still deserving of respect, Brown said.

"The Rebels are obviously playing really well, they're a team on the rise and they're playing some pretty good footie. They like to throw the ball around a bit and they just play solid rugby and that is sometimes hard to stop if we don't get our defence right," he said.



Flanker Shane Christie didn't believe the Rebels would be an easier prospect than the Waratahs.

"They're playing really well, we won't be taking them lightly and they'll be a massive challenge for us. As long as our mindset's right we won't be going to sleep. We won't be thinking about them being a lesser team or anything like that.

"It's going to be a big challenge the same as any other week," he said.

"They've got heaps of attacking strength across the board and they play really quick rugby. They've got a few big forwards that are pretty good defensively so if we just focus on our job and getting our plans right we should have a good day," he said.

Central to helping the side get on top of the anticipated home pressure will be first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga who has already shown the sort of form that will have the All Blacks selectors sitting up and taking notice.

"Lima has got a lot more consistent with his rugby and his preparation and the way he leads our team around the field has gone to another level," Brown said of his play this year.

"All of our players have got 100 percent confidence in him being able to do that and when that happens our team functions really successfully," he said.

Brown said the management were pleased with where the team was at after four rounds. They were playing good football which looked exciting while they were scoring some good tries.

Their challenge was to put 80 minutes on the park and to be ruthless throughout the whole game. The way players had come into the side to cover for injuries was impressive and provided a level of competition needed for the Highlanders to be well placed to have another crack at winning the title again, he said.