Fresh Highlanders need to step-up against Rebels

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The changes were not form-related, they were more a case of having everyone in the squad involved.


Coach Aaron Mauger said hooker Ash Dixon and prop Daniel Lienert-Brown had brought impact off the bench and it was time for them to start while Liam Coltman and Ayden Johnstone would provide the impact this week.


Lock Josh Dickson was getting treatment on his shoulder and was unavailable but it was hoped he would be set to tour with the side when they head to South Africa on Monday.


Teariki Ben-Nicholas moved to the side of the scrum with Shannon Frizell having his first All Blacks' rest week while Marino Mikaele Tu'u would start at No 8.


Mauger was expecting the Rebels to have enjoyed the hard, fast field they had in Ballarat last weekend as a prelude to the fast conditions at Forsyth Barr Stadium. They were a side with threats across the park and a dangerous backline.



"Defensively we need to step up from where we were last week, fell off a couple of tackles we hadn't fallen off in the first couple of rounds so we'll be better there and expecting them to challenge us," he said.


It was a case of getting set better because in the first half against the Crusaders they weren't in the right positions to make tackles. Against a team like the Crusaders every second helped and they had sorted things out in the second half.


"If we pick up where we left off in that second half we should be in a good spot on Friday night," he said.


There had been growth in the side that he was pleased with and it was a case of having put a stake in the ground that they kept moving on.


Manaaki Selby-Rickit was having his appearance off the bench. Mauger said he was athletic and as one who had played a lot of basketball, he enjoyed a sense of spatial awareness which helped him understand the game, helped his decision-making which was a strength.


"What we want to see is him go out there and do what we expect our locks to do which is create front-foot ball and get us going forward, make sure we secure our lineout ball, and if he does that well he'll get a chance to express his point of difference," he said.



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