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Highlanders set hot pace for Chiefs

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Friday, June 12, 2015    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Coach Jamie Joseph wasn't prepared to say a home play-off game was cut and dried but was happy his side's 44-7 win had left the Chiefs facing a daunting chase for points differential advantage.

Not only must they win, they must achieve a four-try bonus point and win by at least 36 points.

Joseph was wary of the Highlanders losing structure once the win was assured and having the Blues close the margin with some late tries.

However, they were able to maintain structure.

"No-one really wants to limp into the play-off season, having a bad performance and that was a big focus for us. We wanted to come out of today's game with a good performance so we could take some confidence into next week," he said.

Home advantage was important for the side; they at least knew what conditions they were going to strike under their roof. They had trained all week only to have it rain throughout the game in Auckland.

"It's probably the biggest thing in Highlanders rugby for some years. If we get that opportunity I think it will be great," he said.

"I remember a couple of years ago when Otago won the Ranfurly Shield the stadium was full and there hasn't been a lot to celebrate in recent years down south so I think the whole bottom of the South Island will get in behind the team," he said.

The key requirement would be getting the side's injuries sorted. John Hardie suffered a rib cartilage injury while Waisaki Naholo hyper-extended his elbow and it was decided to not risk him further in the game. Coming back would be Nasi Manu, Malakai Fekitoa, Joe Wheeler and Mark Reddish.

Joseph said he hoped the side's success had changed some perceptions of the Highlanders.

"I think the quality of rugby we have been playing has been really good. Tonight was a wet game and we mauled and scored a couple of tries. We didn't try to play flash rugby and when we did we came unstuck really but the team had enough knowledge and smarts to be able to then get clinical and just play good rugby that suited the conditions.

"As one of the coaches I'm really proud of that because that is us learning," he said.