Highlanders wary of emerging Blues

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Lynn McConnell     17 May 2017     Getty Images

Assistant coach Mark Hammett said they were well aware of the threat the Blues could pose to the play-off hopes.

"It's such a tight competition and while we can't control what the Blues do we can only control ours, but yeah there's an element of that and there has to be. You've got to face what's real and that is real for us in terms of our drive to win the competition this year.
"It's going to play right out to the end I think," he said.

At the same time they knew they had to cope with what would be a tough game against a buoyant Force side after their trip to Argentina to beat the Jaguares.

They were not concerned over how the Force had handled their return from Argentina where they won the physical battle to beat the Jaguares.

"It was probably the first time we've seen them [the Force] drive from a lineout perspective and they shut the Jaguares out, they shut down their strength and that was probably the winning of the game.

"We're under no illusions here, they're probably one of the best defensive teams in the competition and a good defence that turns over ball can become very dangerous so we're well aware of it," he said.

At the same time the side had still to execute their game plan to the level they wanted and the emphasis this week was on nailing their intended strategy and achieving fruition with it.

"We're pretty stoked to get out of Africa with two wins and if we can win this one it will set us up well for the Waratahs the following week."

"We know we're not at the point we want to be with our game and some of that may be due to rotations through injuries," Hammett said.

In spite of that they had won seven games in a row for the first time, even in spite of the injuries which have hit the side hard this year.

But in the process they had extended the depth available in their squad with players called in and taking their chances to make an impact. And there was a chance they could be close to full strength by the back end of the tournament which could be to their advantage, he said.

Wing Waisake Naholo has headed home after drawing a one-week suspension following his red card and he will prepare for the Waratahs but the side have been joined by first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga, who ran with the squad and Tuesday and was looking good, and hooker Guy Millar who is covering for Greg Pleasants-Tate who suffered a neck injury as a result of the shoulder charge to his face by Bulls lock RG Snyman, who received a four week ban.

First five-eighths Marty Banks suffered a broken nose in the game but he is expected to be available for selection.