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Highlanders insist there is no need for panic

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James Mortimer     11 Mar 2013     Getty Images

The Highlanders, talked up as a potential title chance, also haven't been able to duplicate their last two seasons, where they began their campaigns strongly.

Both sides previously had played the Chiefs, and it seems that the Cheetahs learned a huge amount from their loss to the defending champions.

Sideways running was replaced by direct rampaging, as the South Africans added a considerable amount of starch to their defenive efforts as well, patching up the screen that leaked 45 points against the champions last week.

The Highlanders were unable to match this new found intensity, and perhaps a week off hurt the team and took away any chance of momentum.

Coach Jamie Joseph said it was way too early in the season to worry.

"I'm not panicking," he said.

"I'm not sure how many games we've got left but there's a few," Joseph said after the game.

"If we can hold on to the ball and put some phases together, which was what was lacking in the first half, then we can score tries, too.

The 'holding onto the ball more' will be a key focus for the Highlanders, whose stoic all round game was supposed to be enhanced this season with the likes of Ma'a Nonu and Brad Thorn joining the team - giving them the desired x-factor on attack that often defines championship sides.

"We scored two or three in the second half and that was just on having the ability to hang on to the ball," Joseph said.

"(Guys are then) not being too keen or too much of a hurry to score off the first or second phase," he said.

"There will be a couple of guys that will learn a valuable lesson out of that but, I guess, the whole squad have to learn that lesson out of the pain of a loss."

That will be something one feels that all of the Highlanders, young and old, will learn from. Ironman Brad Thorn was charging around the field trying to win the match by himself it seemed, and ultimately Joseph will seek team cohesion as the season progresses.