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Highlanders denied indoor build-up

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Sportal.co.nz     28 Jun 2012     Getty Images

The Highlanders trained occasionally at the stadium early in the season but most of the practices since have been on the outer grounds at the nearby Logan Park.

"It's really hampered our ability to prepare properly," Joseph said after the Highlanders trained in bitterly cold in Dunedin on Wednesday. "We play on carpet with great surroundings but we train in the mud and sludge.

"Mentally, it's difficult for the players. It's hard enough to get guys up for games sometimes. There are lovely facilities at the stadium but we haven't been able to use them for training.

"We did have some trainings at the stadium at the start of the season and that made a huge difference. And, at the start of the season, we won every game. There's a bit of synergy there.

"I always had an assumption that in the winter months we would have a lot more access to the stadium. I don't know the reasons why but it's disappointing.

"Twenty eight of our players are from outside Dunedin and one of the selling points for them was the stadium, which they get to play on seven or eight times a year.

"We're just trying to look after our team and trying to make the stadium our home and fortress. If we win, more people come to the stadium to watch and everyone benefits."

The Highlanders will face a huge test against the table-topping Chiefs on Friday night.

"They're a good team," Joseph said. "We've got to stop their forward momentum and the big No 12 (Sonny Bill Williams),

"They're a very difficult team to play. They've only lost two games. We'll have to play to the best of our ability.

"But we're at home and we're desperate to perform. They've got a bit of ticker and we'll need that on Friday."

All Black wing Ben Smith suffered a haemotoma to the thigh early in the Test win over Ireland last weekend and is touch and go to play, and Joseph has been careful not to over-work his other returning international players.

"They have had a pretty arduous month and they haven't done a lot this week," he said.

Joseph said the Highlanders had to play smart as well as accurately to have a chance of victory against the Chiefs.

"We can't rely just on our heart and soul to give us wins. We have to be technically and tactically accurate."