Highlanders keen to shut down the Blues up-tempo game plan

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Highlanders' coach Tony Brown said the Blues had shown they were a talented and athletically-gifted team.


"They're trying to play to those strengths, and that's on attack. They're holding the ball a lot more, and they're letting their X-factor players change games for them and win games for them.


"They want to play an exciting brand. They've got the team to do it, and they've been doing a good job so far," he said.


Highlanders' general manager Greg O'Brien said they would not be naming their Covid-affected players.


But Brown said it was likely, given the way the country was bogged down with Covid, that the healthiest team at the end of the competition was likely to be the winner.


"That's got to be our mindset as a team and an organisation," he said.


"We've got to adapt and move on, and prepare to play, and prepare to play well."



He said they could still field a competitive team to play the Blues. Their forward pack was close to full strength, although the backs would be without midfielder Fetuli Paea and wing Sam Gilbert.


Brown said despite their three losses, he was confident in the way the Highlanders were attempting to play.


"You can see there're lots of opportunities created. We're holding the ball for long periods, but it comes down to the last five metres and being able to get across the line.


"Sometime, it just takes one moment in a game for your whole game to click, and then everyone gets confidence of that. We've just got to make sure we nail those finishing touches," he said.


Brown has re-introduced wing Mosese Dawai, who had an unfortunate debut in their first-round game. He had recovered with a good two weeks of work and was fitter.


"I think it was important for him to have a couple of weeks off, and to think about what happened on his debut, and to make sure that the next time he gets the opportunity, he's going to play his style of rugby, and not be afraid," he said.


The Highlanders have bolstered their loose forwards with Gareth Evans moving to the openside flank for Marino Mikaele-Tu'u to come in at No8 and join Shannon Frizell in the loose.



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