Highlanders prepare for Crusaders' challenge

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Lynn McConnell     03 Mar 2017     Getty Images

"That will be our mindset going into the game, to take them on physically and you have got to with every team you play in Super Rugby so, yes, they've got a good forward pack but we won't be taking a backward step. I think it's a good challenge for our guys to try and prove themselves," he said.

The neighbourly aspect always lent an extra edge to playing the Crusaders and Brown was hopeful a full house would induce the sort of entertaining match associated with the game.


With fullback Ben Smith recovering from concussion the captain's role has been given to loose forward Elliot Dixon.

Brown said when Dixon was playing his best rugby he led by example and he expected he would produce one of his best games and bring his physicality both, with and without the ball.

"I think that will naturally lead the side in the right direction," he said.

Brown was looking for the side to build on their opening game which saw them lose to the Chiefs.

"We probably knew we were going to be a little bit rusty first up having eight All Blacks back in the fold so hopefully we'll be a bit better this week. From the coach's point of view we've just got to keep going, keep pulling the trigger and slowly we'll get better and execute better," he said.

Mistakes which yielded two tries to the Chiefs were a product of only being able to play 40 minutes together ahead of the game.

"As we get into week three, four, five you'll see our guys playing their best," he said.

If they were able to get the 65 percent position and possession that they did last week they would be happy and it was a case of executing better to capitalise on that.

Richard Buckman was named to play fullback in place of the injured Ben Smith. He had only recently arrived back from Japan but was rugby fit and after a short break was 'champing at the bit and ready to go again'.

"He's going to be a tough rugby player, he's going to be really competitive and he's going to make the right decision at the right time. Sometimes he's a little bit uncanny but he's going to add a lot of solidity there.

Brown said Patrick Osborne took Matt Faddes' place in the reserves after playing well for the Development side and deserved the chance to try to get back into the starting XV.

And Joe Wheeler was another back from Japan and he had been added to the substitutes for the game.