Highlanders determined to make most of home advantage against Waratahs

GettyImages 1397026108

Assistant coach Clarke Dermody said it was pleasing to see the players respond to being back on home soil for their record win over the Force after their tough month on the road.

"Everything we had been working on all clicked for us at the right time. The Force were coming off a pretty tough game against the Crusaders and were probably targeting us for how we had been going and probably rightly so," he said.

The most pleasing thing about the quality of the win was to turn on some entertainment for their fans in a way they hadn't achieved earlier.

"For us, taking momentum into these last two weeks and, hopefully, three weeks, is important.

"We've taken all year to get to a point where we're actually playing some good rugby, so it's a matter of fine-tuning.

"Now we've found that, [the plan] is to make it better, and then go out and try and do a job on the Waratahs," he said.

Dermody had some perspective on the scrum when the Waratahs played the Hurricanes and how it functioned differently after former All Black Owen Franks replaced Tyrell Lomax. The Waratahs had looked to get high by pre-engaging, but Franks' arrival denied them and changed the game's momentum.

However, the side is likely to be without prop Ethan de Groot, who has All Blacks rest and a sore shoulder to deal with, while first five-eighths Mitch Hunt suffered a head knock and was going through concussion protocols.

That will probably see Sam Gilbert steering the ship around the ground at first five-eighths after his effort at the weekend.

"He controlled the team well, and he's got a point of difference with his running game, and being able to offload. It puts his name right in the hat for that 10 jersey," Dermody said.

There was some positive news for the side ahead of the playoffs. Wing Denny Solomona is in consideration for the weekend, while flanker Shannon Frizell is likely to be fit to play in the playoffs.

Second five-eighths Thomas Umaga-Jensen said the side had found some rhythm, and it had hit home to him what they were capable of doing.

The win over the Fijian Drua had been a confidence boost, while being on tour had united the group more.

Gilbert's performance had not surprised him. He was a player who backed himself and had shown he was an all-round player.

Having been paired in the midfield with centre Josh Timu, he said he was full of energy with good defence and was fast.

"He does the gritty work really, really well. We played together back in club for Varsity so it was good to have someone like that playing [outside]," he said.


View all