Highlanders expect ‘hostile’ crowd in Fiji

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Assistant coach Clarke Dermody said it would be a different challenge for the sides who sit beside each other near the bottom of the points table. The winner of the match would be lifted into playoff contention.


"It's going to be a different challenge. It's their first game at home this year, so we can expect it to be pretty hostile, and the crowd will be pumping," he said.


Humid conditions are expected in Suva, while the Drua's physicality, seen to good effect against the Blues at the weekend, will be another factor the Highlanders will have to cope with.


"Their physicality, their intensity – you can't switch off, or they could score tries pretty quickly," he said.


On top of that, the Highlanders must also sort out areas of their game.


Making optimum use of a wealth of ball won hampered the Highlanders in their loss to the Brumbies on Sunday.


Dermody said there were many reasons for that. It had gone from the forwards not winning enough quick ball earlier in the campaign to getting better ball but not taking the correct options.


"Every review we have, we see a lot of opportunity," he said.

But seeing chances on Mondays was too late.


"Our job is to look for the positives for our boys, and we do see the team getting better in areas," he said.


"One area we've talked [about] is the start of the game this week. It's hurt us for the last two or three. We're leaving ourselves too much to do in the second half.


"We feel like our game is good enough to beat these teams, but, potentially, we're not quite starting well enough," he said.


Having halfback Aaron Smith and loose forward Marinto Mikaele-Tu'u available again could be a boost in turning the starts around, while flanker Christian Lio-Willie, who debuted on Sunday, impressed with his impact.


Recovered from a broken thumb sustained in the preseason, he was a player who would be nurtured rather than rushed into action.


"We're excited with what he can do and look forward to getting him opportunity when it suits. He's not a young guy - in his mid-20s - but he hasn't played a lot of rugby at this level.


"To be able to come on and do what he did…he got a bit more time on the field than he expected [due to his being a blood replacement].


"Everyone can see the talent he's got around the collision stuff. He's grown his game a lot in the last four or five months with us. There's definitely a lot of upside for him," he said.


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