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Highlanders hope to decide own fate

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Friday, July 15, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The worst-case scenario would be having to travel to South Africa, especially after the side was just back from a round-the-world trip to play the Kings and Jaguares.

Coach Jamie Joseph, who could be involved with the last game in Dunedin – something he hadn't thought about in the build-up to the game - said the trip had been good for the side and blooding two new halfbacks against the Kings had been one benefit. It had also been good to have Shane Christie step up to lead the side in that game but disappointing that he was injured.

Christie is on the road to recovery but his replacement James Lentjes had stood up at the right time and deserved his start in the game.

Having the All Blacks join the side in Argentina had been a boost. There hadn't been a lot of training since they got home on Tuesday but they had been training since November and it was a case of freshening the players up for what was going to be an exciting game against the Chiefs.

"It's always a good match between the Highlanders and the Chiefs but it has a lot of connotations this time – we could be in Cape Town, we could be back in Australia, we could be here in New Zealand but hopefully, we just want to stay where we are at Forsyth Barr.

"To be able to do that we have to be able to perform really well, to play well coming up against a quality side. They are not at the top of the ladder by accident. It's shaping to be a massive game," he said.

Given their recent record against the Chiefs, Joseph said he didn't think it was anything particular. They had been able to create some pressure from occasions when they had their backs to the wall.

"It's a bit like that at the weekend – we're dragging the chain a wee bit and we're a little behind them and we need to play well but we have got our home ground and we're really looking forward to that," he said.

It was also good to have a full house at home which was a reflection of how the side's fans viewed them.

"And we need to put a performance on for them so they keep coming back," he said.

The side was also welcoming back experienced hooker Liam Coltman who had been out after suffering a bad injury when cleaned out off the ball in the game against the Sharks and because he had done the job he had been named in the 23. At the same time Joseph acknowledged the way Greg Pleasants-Tate had stepped up in the interim to play very well.

"He's played some big games of football for the Highlanders and it was a hard selection to leave him out because he had done so well," he said.