Complacency not on the menu for the Highlanders

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Highlanders assistant coach Riki Flutey repeated the mantra of respect that all New Zealand sides have been pushing when playing the Waratahs.


He said, "They mightn't have won a game but they are a really good side. They have got some athletes and are scoring on average four tries a game.


"They are getting lots of turnovers, and they are averaging 30-something points. We are going to respect them.


"Our defence has been exceptional in the last couple of weeks, and we just have to back that. Being able to apply the kick pressure game, and win the ball back in a better position is what we are trying to achieve from our kicking game.


"We encourage our boys to look at their opposites, their individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and we'll put plans around those," he said.


"We haven't won three games in a row, so it was good to get that right. We showed some good things out there."


Maintaining their winning run depended on taking chances when offered.


"It's about creating opportunities. We missed a few, and we have to acknowledge that. We missed a few on the edge and were a little bit loose.


"We are still scoring six tries. The bonus point has been a big focus, but we are still pleased to get the win and can go from there."



Flutey said wing Jona Nareki's performances were not an accident, they were reward for the preparation he put into his game each week.


"You can go through his highlight package, but for me, it is the stuff he does during the week – his prep [preparation], that brings an awesome performance.


"He is the consummate professional the way he delivers the game. What we see on the field at the weekend is what we see at his training throughout the week. He has put in a lot of hard work," he said.


Scott Gregory, who has been used in the midfield this season, said it was a position he had wanted to play. It's physical demands appealed. And he was ready for a test of wills against strong Waratahs midfielder Izaia Perese.


"I'd say it's a strength I have, physicality. You get in there, and have a lot more physicality in the game, and that's one part I really like," he said.


It also helped having increased his weight to 100kg.


Bouncing back from disappointments last season had been about learning and then moving on.


"These things happen to everyone. We're all human and that's something people struggle to remember.


"It's being able to push past that, and know that we are better than those performances," he said.


It was important the Highlanders gave the Waratahs respect because the Dunedin-based side had their own example of overcoming odds when they upset the Crusaders in Christchurch in Super Rugby Aotearoa.


"We can't take anyone lightly in this competition. As we saw the other night, the Reds got over the Chiefs and any team can do that to any team in this competition," he said.


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