Highlanders’ fling working out well for Osborne

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
FAMILIAR SITE: Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne touches down for another try against the Reds in Brisbane.
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FAMILIAR SITE: Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne touches down for another try against the Reds in Brisbane.

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Patrick Osborne's bank manager isn't the only one giggling after the big wing joined the Highlanders' joy ride this year.

A lack of regular starts contributed to Osborne struggling to settle during previous stints at the Chiefs and Crusaders, so when Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph offered him a contract - it helped that it was substantially more than what other teams offered - he shifted his family to Dunedin.

Both parties have benefited immensely from this partnership.

The Highlanders, who meet the Crusaders in their final round-robin match tonight, are on the cusp of making the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The uncapped Osborne, meanwhile, was stunned when invited into the All Blacks squad last month because Israel Dagg was injured.

That was reflected in his response to All Blacks manager Darren Shand's request he cart his gear down to training ahead of the second test against England in Dunedin.

''I thought it was a joke - that one of the boys was playing a prank on me,'' Osborne said. ''Then I called Jamie Joseph and he confirmed it wasn't.''

Coach Steve Hansen's message to Fijian Osborne, who in nine Super Rugby starts has bagged five tries, was brief when they met.

''He just said you are here because you are a bloody good player and to feel comfortable in the team. That was the last thing he said to me.''

The withdrawal of fullback Ben Smith because of a leg infection places heat on centre Malakai Fekitoa and Osborne to give the Highlanders' attack more impetus against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium.

The Crusaders' hopes of finishing second overall could hinge on winning this game - and the result of the Sharks-Stormers encounter in Cape Town tomorrow morning.

Polynesian power continues to be a key component of New Zealand teams' attacks.

The Crusaders' recruitment of Nemani Nadolo has proved a hit, while the Hurricanes have Julian Savea on their books. The Blues have George Moala, Tevita Li, Charles Piutau and Frank Halai in their outside backs and the Chiefs started Asaeli Tikoirotuma on the right wing last night.

Cantabrians have known plenty about Osborne's powerful running since he debuted for the province in 2010 but he believes he can be more than just a damaging runner.

It's a message rammed home to him by ex-All Blacks centre Victor Simpson when he began playing for the University club in Christchurch.

''When I first came over from Fiji I tried to run players over. Victor Simpson stopped me from doing that sort of thing by making me do press-ups for every contact I took.

''So after a club game, while everyone was enjoying a cold beer I would be doing my press-ups.''

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