Highlanders aiming for back-to-back wins in 2021

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Before last weekend's 33-12 win over the Crusaders, the Highlanders' only other win of the year was away to the Chiefs where they took a 39-23 win home with them.

 

Assistant coach Clarke Dermody said not only had they not won at home they also hadn't strung performances together.

 

They were aware the Chiefs start well, and in all their recent games against them, they had been under the pump from the outset, he said.

 

It would be important not to concede a 15-20-point lead. The Highlanders would need to be 'on' from the start, they wouldn't want to limp into the game.

 

"They are a skilful team, they have a hard-working forward pace, we've seen that against the Blues, they really stood up that night so we'll expect them at the best there but really, really dangerous backs. We're aware of their threats so it is going to be a big night for our defence," he said.

 

Injuries have been a concern for the Highlanders in the wake of their success.

 

A broken arm suffered by Thomas Umaga-Jensen has ruled him out for the remainder of the season while halfback Folau Fakatava has a knee injury. Solomon Alaimalo is also not available for consideration due to personal reasons.

 

Josh Timu has been added to the squad as a back replacement.

 

Dermody said he was gutted for Umaga-Jensen.

 

"He had worked really hard to get back because he is a big man. He had got himself into awesome condition, he was playing well…But we have seen how talented he is and am sure he will be back again," he said.

 

It was doubly frustrating because he had already had his share of bad injuries. Dermody said Umaga-Jensen still had a big future. His injuries were contact injuries and he was unlucky.

 

"He plays the game pretty hard, we don't want to change that. The position he's in, he needs to be a physical guy so I'm sure the tide will turn when he gets back," he said.

 

Reflecting on the team's triumph over the Crusaders, Dermody said: "It was just pleasing to be able to execute for the whole game. That is what we said before, and coming out of that Hurricanes game that is what we learned.

 

"We did not execute our game plan. The boys stuck to it, and we got the result.

 

"It is the biggest challenge going [to beat the Crusaders at home]. We used that during the week. They are a team that always comes back at you. We knew we were never going to be able to sit on the lead, so that drove the boys well.

 

"In previous games we have faded in the last 20 minutes. But this time, they just had too much to do," he said.

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