Highlanders ready for Hurricanes ‘energiser bunnies’

Highlanders coach Tony Brown said the Hurricanes had plenty of X-factor with the added asset of not going away, as they showed over the last two weeks.


"They are going to play right till the end so we have to be able to contain their key players and then make sure that in the 81st minute we're still playing rugby," he said.


Brown confirmed wing Josh Timu would be out for six weeks with a partial ligament tear in his knee.


"When you're playing New Zealand teams you've got to be very good to win those games and the last couple of weeks we've been a little bit off but not far off, so we've got to make sure we nail a couple of things when the game is on the line and results will be different," he said.


The best demonstration of that was being one point down on the Crusaders with 15 minutes to play. That was where they needed to hold possession and come over the top of them.


"It's just being brave enough to attack when we need to," he said.

Law interpretations this year made it easier to hold the ball for longer, Brown said. Last year there was more kicking, but this year the evidence of two weeks showed that those who retained possession were finishing strong and scoring tries. That meant it was a promising start to what should be an entertaining competition.


First five-eighths Mitchell Hunt said halfback Folau Fakatava's potential had been clear in recent years.


"He's not too much taller than me but he's solid in there at halfback. He's a great runner, but he's also great defensively. We've got to stick with him – he can make a break or a play out of anything so while Aaron [Smith] is great in all aspects, we've got to be reactive to Folau sometimes and feed off him," he said.


Hunt was also aware of the growing threat outside him with Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Fetuli Paea.


"I've played with Fetuli for two or three years up in Tasman, he's a fantastic player and very solid, and the same with Thomas now. It's great to be building a combination with Thomas. He's been out for the last few years but it is great having that safety of those sizeable mid-fielders. They're X-factor players and it creates that bit of dynamic for our backline," he said.


Hurricanes' first five-eighths Ruben Love would require attention from the Highlanders' defence, he said.


"They're all good footballers, all good athletes, we can't just focus on one person but he's handy. We've got a few guys to shut him down so we look forward to the battle."


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