Force may feel all of Highlanders frustration
A frustrated Highlanders team is looking for something better against the Western Force in Perth tonight.
The Highlanders are frustrated at a season that hasn't gone to plan, frustrated at being on the wrong end of refereeing decisions and frustrated at their own inability to hold on to the ball at critical times.
"I think for us we need to put in a performance that we are capable of for 80 minutes - not 20 minutes, or 10 minutes or five minutes," Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph said.
"We've only had one of those this year and that was against the Sharks. We need to put a performance like that out."
The fun went out of the Highlanders' season some time ago but the players will have their characters tested tonight and don't want to be found wanting.
After two losses in South Africa, it would be easy to think more of the trip home to family than the job at hand but that's something the Highlanders can't afford to do.
What the Highlanders must do is make the most of their opportunities and hope that some luck runs their way.
"We have to hang on to the ball, which is something we didn't do last weekend," Joseph said.
"For me personally, I think there was a lot of dubious calls last week with regards to sanctions and yellow cards and dropping of mauls etc . . . so discipline is another thing that has been a core focus for us."
The Force have beaten the Reds and Crusaders this season but are second off the bottom of the table and in danger of being overtaken by the Highlanders and left with the wooden spoon.
"They are a grinding team. They've got a good set piece, they don't go away. The Chiefs were lucky to win that match, the Sharks, you could probably say the same thing, so it will be a tough old battle," Joseph said.
Joseph has given some of his young bench players a chance against the Force, dropping skipper Andrew Hore and first-five Colin Slade to the bench.
Liam Coltman will start at hooker in place of Hore, with Brad Thorn to lead the Highlanders, and Hayden Parker gets another chance in the No 10 jersey after impressing midseason.
The Highlanders have made seven changes to the starting 15 that ran out against the Bulls, including a new front row of Tony Woodcock, Coltman and Ma'afu Fia.
Josh Bekhuis returns after a shoulder injury to the second row and TJ Ioane starts on the blindside.
Ma'a Nonu makes his comeback from a knee injury, while Jason Emery replaces Tino Nemani on the right wing.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Jason Emery, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Hayden Parker, Aaron Smith, Mose Tuiali'i, John Hardie, TJ Ioane, Josh Bekhuis, Brad Thorn (c), Ma'afu Fia, Liam Coltman, Tony Woodcock. Reserves; Andrew Hore, Bronson Murray, Joe Wheeler, Elliot Dixon, Fumiaki Tanaka, Colin Slade, Tino Nemani/Trent Renata.
The Southland Times