Burleigh and Highlanders ready for Eden Park

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Saturday, March 29, 2014    Getty Images

After the Highlanders kicked off their season with a deserved win over the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium they head north knowing the return game will be 'a different kettle of fish'.

Burleigh, who has been in a contest with Shaun Treeby for the starting second five-eighths positions, gets another start in the role and says Saturday's game is going to be another step up for his side.

He didn't think the loss of halfback Piri Weepu to a minor stroke would affect the Blues side as they had adequate replacements on call.

As for himself, he was happy to get a start in what is yet another important game for both teams.

The Highlanders were a more competitive force this year and that was a direct result of the way they had trained and prepared this time compared to last year.

So far as the backs were concerned he felt the introduction of former All Blacks first five-eighths Tony Brown had been a big help to the backline.

"With the personnel we have in the side he has given us the right tools to work with and by making a couple of tweaks to what we were doing it has been a big help," Burleigh said.

"The big thing is that we are enjoying our rugby and that makes for a happy team," he said.

That is reflected in a number of ways but one player who has benefitted has been Auckland ITM Cup centre Malakai Fekitoa whose form has been one of the highlights for the said.

"He has had a hut impact on the boys as much for his physical presence as anything else," he said.

"He has lifted us with the dominance he has achieved," he said.

Another factor has been the injury-free break enjoyed by first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga whose confidence was running high and making full use of the fine service inside from All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith.

That confidence has flowed through the team and chances are that another stimulating contest between the two sides will be played out on Saturday.