Highlanders determined to end New Zealand derby drought

h 00123456

Withy said getting the monkey off their back was a good opportunity.

"We've got two opportunities to reset that record over the next two weeks before our bye week. It's always motivation, and that helps us get through the week. We've had a good week preparing, and having guys back from injury adds new energy.

Withy said he enjoyed playing his role when coming off the bench with the challenge of finding ways to impact. He felt the bench had done that to get the win over the Waratahs two weeks ago.

But getting a start against the Chiefs is even more satisfying, whether on the openside flank or the blindside.

"I'm not too worried which number, but wherever I can get on the field for as many minutes as possible, this week at six, I'm looking forward to that."

He will be working with Tom Sanders, at No8, with Hugh Renton still unavailable and Nikora Broughton to come off the bench.

"They are quite different players. Hughie and Tommy are both hard-nosed hard workers and bigger man. You see Hughie's physical presence and hopefully we'll see that from Tom this week. And Nikora is different again. He's a skilful player who runs good lines and sees holes and opportunities."

Withy said while the Highlanders lead the clean tackle team percentages, the point of defence was to get the ball back.

"We've got a good percentage, but you want to make as few tackles as possible. The tackle type, I guess, is trying to slow the ball down. Teams are trying to create quick ball, and we're trying to slow it down or get a turnover.

"When we do get a turnover, that's when we play our best rugby. We've got a dangerous backline, and back three, so anytime we can turn ball over through our defence, that's what we're looking to do."

Withy has become a more settled member of the side but said it wasn't a case of feeling more comfortable because so many good players are competing for play.

"But, I feel like I'm more comfortable in my week-to-week playing and training, and what goes into a performance well."

He realised it this year, probably because he played every game last year, after only one game in 2022.

"I'm aware of what my role is and am more comfortable with what needs to go in."

As new players, they had to learn more about the game inside and out and what the other team was doing. With that experience, the game slowed down a little.

"Getting used to the speed is the big thing. When you're younger and just coming in everything is in your face and hits you fast, so you don't see the little things.

"That is probably a bit of experience around knowing what to look for and your preparation during the week so when you're out in the field everything's a lot more instinctive and happens naturally. You see a lot more that you didn't see when you're younger."


View all