Blues wary of hungry Highlanders side

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Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry said the Highlanders would be looking to replicate their effort against the Crusaders, and they wouldn't be happy with last weekend's golden point loss to the Chiefs.

 

But for the Blues, they also had their challenges.

 

"It's trying to put a performance on the field we've been after all season," Coventry said.

 

"I don't think we've been at our very best either. We've managed to get home and be comfortable with some of our results, but the way we play is probably just as important as the result sometimes, and we'll be looking to be better than we have been over the last three or four games," he said.

 

Playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium was something the Blues looked forward to.

 

"It suits New Zealand teams to play with a dry ball, and I've got no doubt both teams will relish being in the dry. I think it suits us too," he said.

 

"We've been compared to a big South African team in the past, and being heavy, and slow, around the field.

 

"But, I think we can run and gun with the best of them. So, being able to use our speed on the edges of the field is key, but also being good up front is a big part of what we are about," he said.

Only one change to the starting XV has been with Jonathon Ruru starting at halfback.

 

Continuity in selection was helping the development of combinations and also to lift the confidence for players getting regular game time, Coventry said.

 

Ruru said the benefits of combinations had been seen in glimpses during the season, but they needed to start well and carry it through for 80 minutes.

 

He said being halfback at the hub of the pack in a fast-moving game was enjoyable in the dry conditions in Dunedin. Once the forwards got over the advantage line, they could release the ball for the outside backs to do their work.

 

Coventry said the prospect of playing another demanding round of Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa was not as exciting as getting to play Australian sides in the next phase of the season.

 

It was a chance to play in different venues against different opposition. It would also allow them to try themselves against better players in the Australian competition, he said.

 

Ruru said most of the players were looking forward to travelling across the Tasman.

 

"It's  [travel] one thing that's good about professional rugby, so to be able to do that again would be great," he said.

 

Ruru said the two seasons of Super Rugby Aotearoa had been tough. They provided a different challenge for the franchises' strength and conditioning staff as they ensured players' bodies were coping with the intensive loads.

 

"It's a bit of a physical challenge, but the boys are handling it quite well at the moment and I think we've learnt a lot from last year," he said.

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