Highlanders’ Confidence Soars Ahead of Chiefs Clash

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Coach Clarke Dermody said the side no longer needed to feel off the pace in the derbies as they had in the past.

"We were right in the Blues game, and we've learned from that and pushed a good Brumbies team.

"The message to the boys is, don't be surprised that we're in these games. We're a good rugby team. The belief is growing that when we get opportunities in games, we can start taking them.

However, they will play without All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot, who left the field with a concussion against the Brumbies.

Dermody said, "He's feeling good. He's pretty chirpy, but those protocols are in there for a reason – to make sure he comes back at the right pace.

Also missing is lock Max Hicks with a sprained wrist.

"He didn't break it, which is good. He's not quite right for this week, but hopefully, he'll be back in next week."

However, Pari Pari Parkinson's return is some compensation for Hicks' absence.

Changes in the pack have Tom Sanders moving from the blindside to No8, which allows Sean Withy to resume on the blindside.

Sanders' choice was a tactical move.

Dermody said, "Tom is different to what Nikora offers. Nikora is highly skilled, but we felt like we needed more physicality in the back row going up to Hamilton, and Tom provides that. It gives Nikora's skill-set an opportunity off the bench to finish the game with a bit of tempo."

With new emphasis being applied to the game's laws from this weekend's round, Dermody supported the changes and the speeding up of the game.

"We try and play the game fast anyway. We try and do that under a roof. I think it's exciting."

He said the variations around the offside laws were great and encouraged more counterattack. But at the same time, the Chiefs are the leading exponents of kicking in the competition, and what they did wasn't boring.

"It's a big part of the game, it's just managing to get it right."


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