Plenty for Highlanders to work on after hit-out

JAMIE JOSEPH: "No injuries is good news for us, considering we've got eight or nine on the sideline already."
JAMIE JOSEPH: "No injuries is good news for us, considering we've got eight or nine on the sideline already."

The Highlanders copped a good whack from the Chiefs in their first pre-season game on Saturday, but coach Jamie Joseph was relieved not to add to an already hefty injury list.

A late try by the Highlanders added some respectability to a 36-14 scoreline, in a fast-paced game played in hot conditions in Taupo.

"We got beat, no doubt about that," Joseph said. "It's pre-season, a lot of guys played and there's still a lot of guys out with injury.

"There were some things we got through - we had a look at our young guys and it's better to play those young guys with a bit of experience but for one reason or another we weren't able to do that, particularly up front."

Joseph was pleased the Highlanders were able to score two set piece tries, an issue for the team last year, and the lineout and scrum worked well, but defence and the ability to attack from broken play are things the side will work on.

"It's nice training but we need to get out there and do a few things together [in games], and that's what pre-season is about," he said.

With four loose forwards unavailable the Highlanders are lacking some presence at the breakdown, but John Hardie and Nasi Manu are expected to be back this month.

"No injuries is good news for us, considering we've got eight or nine on the sideline already," Joseph said.

The Highlanders will welcome All Black midfielder Ma'a Nonu into the fold today.

The franchise's most surprising offseason signing spent time with the team last week, but has been busy shifting his family to Dunedin over the weekend.

"He's a world class guy and [Tony] Woodcock is a world class guy, but they'll take time as well," Joseph said.

"We are looking at them with a view to getting things sorted out so that when we come to the start of the season we hit it running," Joseph said.

The Chiefs were able to use All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, but left Liam Messam on the sideline.

The Highlanders were led by All Black wing Hosea Gear, with Ben Smith also playing.

Aaron Smith stayed on the bench.

The Highlanders will play the Blues on Friday in Oamaru, while the Chiefs head to the Sunshine Coast to take on the Reds.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders 27-26 in Timaru, a late intercept try to midfielder Tim Bateman sealing the win after they'd trailed 19-15 at halftime.

In Toowoomba, the Queensland Reds edged out the Auckland Blues, 41-35, on Saturday night.

The Brumbies got home 20-18 against the Force in Darwin, while Israel Folau scored two tries and conceded a yellow card in the Waratahs' 24-16 win over the Rebels in Hobart.

The Bulls beat the Lions 38-32 in Soweto and the Cheetahs pipped the Stormers 27-26 in Bloemfontein.

Meanwhile, Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has confirmed he will bring in a replacement player for injured All Blacks wing Cory Jane, who will have surgery on his damaged anterior cruciate ligament on Thursday.

Hammett said he was "gutted" for Jane.

Chiefs 36 (Gareth Anscombe 2, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Augustine Pulu, Fritz Lee tries; Gareth Anscombe 4 con, pen) Highlanders 14 (Hosea Gear, Tony Ensor tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 con).

The Southland Times