Highlanders strive for consistency against Hurricanes

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The Highlanders showed no problems with their fitness in fighting back from 0-28 to 21-28 in the final quarter against the Chiefs last weekend, but they could do without a self-made mountain to climb.

Highlanders assistant coach Tom Donnelly said they were poor at the start and suffered the consequences.

"If you're going to give teams like the Chiefs, or any good quality New Zealand side, a 28-29 point head start, she's going to be a hard road winding them in.

"But, at the same time, we've got a really special group that doesn't give up.

"We need to be a truckload more accurate in what we're doing for our game to be effective against New Zealand teams."

Adding to the situation is the fact the Highlanders' statistics in various areas of field play show they are winning enough possession and defending doggedly.

"It's just a matter of us being competitive for 80 minutes and making sure we're eliminating soft penalties, eliminating our simple errors which are taking pressure off teams."

Having a young team, with the only All Black in the 2024 squad being prop Ethan de Groot, who didn't play at the weekend but is likely to return this week, means lessons must be learned quickly.

"We're still a pretty young team, so we're still learning. What's pleasing for the coaching group is that the boys are keen, they work hard for each other, we're getting patches of the game right, and we're doing well.

"If we can eliminate those mistakes, which will come with being a bit more experienced and a little tougher on ourselves at training, then we'll be right in games."

Given their results, it was unfortunate that four of their first six games have been against New Zealand teams, but Donnelly said that was irrelevant.

"We've just got to get better at travelling, preparing in the last 24 hours when from home to make sure that we start games really well."

Donnelly said the lineout was performing well and putting more pressure on teams with its defensive lineout, which they have worked hard on. But, again, errors meant they were not getting full value from their work.

De Groot's return would boost the scrum. His hard work and physicality backed his no-nonsense attitude, and he was an example to others.


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