Adaptability key for Highlanders in relocated match against Rebels

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Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said the team that adapted first, in the neutral atmosphere, would be the team most likely to take the win.

 

"It's just another challenge for us. We know in this competition that you need to get as many points as you can out of games so the alternative, which is two points each, wasn't really an option for us knowing if that happened the competition is pretty much over," he said.

 

Dermody said their training week hadn't changed too much, and they had proved in Perth, they could win away from home.

 

At the same time, it was disappointing not to play in Queenstown, where they hadn't played for some time.

 

The player's mindset was important, and they couldn't afford to be off, as the Rebels had good players in key positions. If they got in front, they knew how to push for the win.

 

They were expecting an improved Rebels scrum, an area they had struggled in when playing them in the past.

 

 

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith said: "We know it's going to be tough playing on neutral ground, and it's going to be who's the best at showing up, and playing under these circumstances of playing away from your home when your preparation's not ideal.

 

"We're just lucky we went to Perth and had a big turnaround, a 10-day turnaround. We're excited to go; just happy the match can go off. It's one of those things in sport and the world we live in with Covid, so we're grateful we can get to play.

 

"There's nothing worse than taking a draw or two points that would shoot our opportunity to try and make this final, which we're going for. Going over to play in 18 degrees ain't bad, it's just a bummer for our Queenstown fans," he said.

 

Smith said it had also been nice to receive word from Wallaby first five-eighths Matt Toomua, who sent him a message on social media thanking the Highlanders for wanting to go to Sydney.

 

"I think we're all stuck in a bubble in New Zealand around how good we think we all are beating Australian teams, but these games are very hard," he said.

 

Smith said he loves the Australian connection. They were physical teams with skilful players, and the mantra of sport across the Tasman was something he enjoyed.

 

"We played in front of 13,000 people in Perth who were loving it and you've just got to be grateful to be playing sport at the moment."

 

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