Hurricanes gear up for Highlanders clash

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 17:20 12/03/2012
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MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
GETTING A FEEL FOR IT: Motu Matu'u trains with the Hurricanes at Newtown Park.
Hurricanes vs Force
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Julian Savea of the Hurricanes looks to break from a tackle by Salesi Ma'afu of the Force.

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Confident, but not cocky, the Hurricanes won't be getting ahead of themselves as they prepare for a battle against the Highlanders at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Assistant coach Alama Ieremia said the squad was in high spirits after arriving home from their three-match tour with two wins.

''Yep, there's a good vibe in the camp at the moment, but we are under no illusion it's going to be a tough week,'' he said today.

''We were always looking to win all three, but we've got two out of three, so that's good. We've achieved some of the expectations we had within the team.

''The trip away was good for that to gel as a team and there's a good vibe in the environment at the moment which is critical.

''It's going to be exciting to play in front of our home fans for the first time this year and hopefully we get some support there.''

Back to back wins, 30-28 over the Lions in Johannesburg, and 46-19 against the Western Force in Perth, have exceeded many expectations, but Ieremia said the players would not be reading their own press.

''We are winning at the moment, but its only round three. We need to focus on the next task which is the Highlanders. They are top of the [NZ] table at the moment, which is exciting for us. Preparation wise we have to make sure we tick the right boxes.''

That meant preparing for a physical challenge and though after three weeks on the road the coaches weren't pushing their players back into contact too early they would not be holding back in coming days.

''That's one of the messages we will be targeting to the boys this week. They [the Highlanders] are top of the table and they've earned that, we have to make sure we are physical in training and prepared for that battle.

''The collisons [in New Zealand] are a little lower, the centre of gravity is a bit lower, so we have to make sure the body positions are right and the weather conditions here you never know, so we'll see.''

Ieremia said he couldn't see too much relevance in playing against former Hurricanes like Highlanders Andrew Hore, Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear and Nick Crosswell.

''That's the nature of professional sport in New Zealand now. We have different players from ITM Cup sides in different franchises... everyone's just excited and we will prepare so that our heads are in the right space.''

The Hurricanes will name their side to play the Highlanders on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, the off-season Samoan recruit Tusi Pisi will join the squad next week after playing in the final of Japan's top competition this weekend.

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