Highlanders fate in their own hands

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Following the disappointments of their loss to the Waratahs, the Highlanders will know what is required to make the playoffs as their only challengers, the Force, play their final game 18 hours earlier.


But captain James Lentjes said they were concentrating on the fact they needed to beat the Rebels, not just to secure their playoffs place but to have some momentum that would see them meet the Blues in the quarterfinals.


Lentjes said while some issues were identified with their preparation last week there was also an appreciation that individually, they were not ready to go, which reflected in their play.


They want to change that in Melbourne, and that had been evident in training this week with some edge shown.


It was also evident in the selection. Front rowers, Jermaine Ainsley, Andrew Makalio and Ethan de Groot, are joined by lock Bryn Evans, No8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, first five-eighths Marty Banks, midfielders Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Fetuli Paea, and fullback Liam Coombes-Fabling, in the starting XV.

Hooker Liam Coltman was unavailable due to a calf strain, while utility back Scott Gregory has the 'flu.


Lentjes said the Rebels were dangerous because they had nothing to lose, especially playing at home.


First five-eighths Marty Banks said, "The boys are pretty aware that we didn't probably perform to the standard we wanted to. We're well aware of that as a group. We had a pretty honest chat the first day in.


"We didn't really need a spray from the coaches because we knew we hadn't performed.


"Physically, we've got to meet the Rebels this week from the first minute and then build into it from there," he said.


As a result of Mitch Hunt's concussion issues and Sam Gilbert's suspension, Banks carries an extra load for the game. However, he was intent on giving his outsides plenty of opportunities.


"I think my role this week is to get the ball into their hands, and let them do their thing.


"Then, when we get a bit of momentum, then I can look to run. Not overplaying my hand is probably a big thing.


"We've got some good athletes in our team. I've got to get them in the right position to be able to attack them, and take control of the game," he said.


Banks said he was confident the team was in the right mental space for the task.


"We know going over there it's a massive task, we've got it all to play for. It's in our destiny whether we progress or not. The Force are hot on our tails but as a group we're in a good place and looking forward to getting stuck in," he said.


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