Gear unfazed by new role

Getty Images     21 Feb 2013     Getty Images

The left winger will captain the Highlanders for first time in the absence of the suspended Andrew Hore as they take on the defending champions at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Gear volunteered his services as vice-captain late last year and now the 14-test All Black has been promoted to the hot seat in what shapes as the match of the round.

"I'm pretty fortunate to have quite a few older, experienced guys around me so that takes a bit of the load off my shoulders and makes my job a bit easier," he said.

"I put up my hand as vice-captain as I wanted to share my experiences with some of the younger guys. That's probably the least I can do."

Gear, 28, said the increased expectation on the Highlanders after the signings of All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Brad Thorn and Tony Woodcock did not weigh heavily on the Highlanders.

"I think the expectations are mainly on ourselves. It's about nailing our own game, on attack and defence, and not really worrying about the things we can't control.

"I guess it's just something we have to embrace and try to justify. We just have to get on with the job.

"I'd say there will be quite a few nerves around on Friday but I think everyone is just keen to get stuck in really. We're ready to go."

"Everyone is pretty excited after a long and pretty tough buildup in the pre-season. "

There is likely to be an almost sell-out crowd and Gear said the Highlanders would be buoyed by that.

"That would be great. We always get good support wherever we go. We want to put on a good performance for the fans."

The Highlanders pre-season has been blighted by injuries but Gear said that had not been a major distraction.

"I believe that no matter who we put out on the park that we'll get the job done. We're quite fortunate to have a bit of depth and it gives those guys a chance to come in and have a crack."

Gear has been sharp in the pre-season games and has scored at least one try in each of the three matches.

"I haven't had to do a lot of work for them really," he said. "It has been done inside me so I've just had to get over the line."

The Highlanders had a win and a loss against the Chiefs last year and lost to them in Taupo in a pre-season match this season.

"Sometimes they can produce the unexpected so we have to be ready for anything they throw at us," Gear said.

"They've got some good players in key positions so there is a lot of potential danger for us. We just have to make sure we are nice and clear in what we have to do.

"They're the defending champions and, in my eyes, they are the benchmark of the competition. They are No 1 in our eyes."

Evergreen lock Thorn remains in some doubt with a strained calf, Colin Slade is still two or three weeks away so Lima Sopoaga is likely to be at first five-eighth when the team is named on Thursday.