Highlanders eye playoffs opportunity

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A win in Suva over the Fijian Drua left the Highlanders in 10th place on the ladder but four points closer to reaching their goal, with the Rebels and Force within two points in front of them.


The Highlanders were the least surprised at their win in Fiji.


First five-eighths Mitch Hunt, who had experience playing in Suva from his time with the Crusaders, said the side had been consistent in working towards their goals, and the win was a boost and some reward for the efforts made each week.


"The spirit's actually been good all year, despite some of the results," he said.


"The changing shed after the game was a bit of a different vibe, which was pretty cool to be a part of.


"Hopefully, that's just a bit of confidence for our group, knowing that we can compete and get the wins at the right time.


"We've had a couple of tough results by close margins, so to get that tight win come our way, hopefully it's a bit of confidence," he said.


"There're no easy games, despite what everybody outside the environment seems to think.


"If we're off by a little amount, these guys can take advantage of that," he said.



The Drua had gone close to showing that playing in front of their home crowd for the first time.


"It was awesome to be a part of that atmosphere. Some of those games are the coolest to be a part of, purely through the crowd and what that whole atmosphere brings to Fiji," he said.


And the Drua showed with two of their tries what they were capable of.


"They can make something out of nothing, and we saw a bit of their flair. When a team like that adds that sort of element, it's great for us in terms of our preparation," he said.


That would be relevant at the weekend facing the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.


"The Australians want to prove something playing the Kiwi sides – prove they can hold their own, if not beat us.


"It's great to see the Australian teams playing well, because it means we need to be at our best," he said.


Assistant coach Riki Flutey was of a similar mind, especially when looking to the Reds and what was making them competitive.


"It's been exciting to see little changes in terms of their strengths and what they're going to bring and how we might nullify those and play our game.


"The Reds, and the Brumbies as well, their set-piece has been pretty dominant," he said.


The Highlanders take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium at 9.45pm NZT on Friday. 


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