Highlanders know their defence needs attention

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014
Jamie Joseph
Getty Images
JAMIE JOSEPH: "We've got to sort our defence out, particularly in our half. We didn't slow the ball up well enough and the Crusaders were able to get a bit of a roll on."

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Shoring up their defence has been the main focus for the Highlanders this week.

The Highlanders missed nearly 30 tackles against the Crusaders on Saturday and were outplayed on the gain line by the likes of hardrunning Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo.

"We've got to sort our defence out, particularly in our half," Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said ahead of tomorrow night's game against the Reds in Brisbane. "We didn't slow the ball up well enough and the Crusaders were able to get a bit of a roll on. Defensively it was the worst game we've had ... but in saying that we were playing the Crusaders. Our defence in the first line wasn't as accurate or as abrasive as we'd like but in terms of a team effort, getting back and scrambling to deal with those threats, it was still a strong part of our game."

Joseph said that with a short turnaround before the Reds game, there wasn't a lot of tinkering that could be done.

"Sometimes a rest is as good as a holiday. The systems are in place and we don't really change them. Each team has different threats and the Reds have got Will Genia. If anyone is dangerous around the ruck it's the Wallaby No 9," he said.

"We have to address that because he'll feature in the game, he does it against every team he plays against. We have just got to do the job, there's no secret recipe. We've just got to make the tackles, position early and smack them over."

The Highlanders will take away more than two competition points from the loss to the Crusaders, they also know they could have done a lot better.

"The game was a bit of an epic for the last 20 minutes, but for the first 50 minutes we didn't play very well - that's the cold, hard truth of it. To be frank we didn't play very well at all," Joseph said.

"Having come so close, the players are a bit brassed off. What they sense now is that they are a good enough team to take that game if they had played anywhere near their ability."

The Highlanders will disband for 10 days after the Brisbane game, with Super Rugby going on hold for the June test window.

Depending on their workload so far this season, some will be involved in club rugby, but otherwise they will come back together in time for the June 20 friendly against the NZ Barbarians in Invercargill.

Before that, however, Joseph is wary of a Reds team playing for pride.

"A lot of their play will come off [Genia]. We don't expect them to do a lot different in terms of their set piece attack, but we do expect them to do a lot more attacking from their own half. The season is gone for them and what they have to finish with is performing well for their families and their fans, so we're expecting them to run it."

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