Highlanders' prepare for toughest test

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Depleted by injuries, the Crusaders were taken apart by the Hurricanes who made a storming start to their game in Wellington while the Highlanders showed impressive tenacity in holding out a strong Stormers assault during the third quarter of their game in Dunedin.

Highlanders' scrum coach Clarke Dermody said while the Stormers had been a physical side, the Highlanders had come through the game largely injury free and with 'a pretty good win'.

Dermody said there was always intensity associated with any of the local derbies because players on both teams knew each other, but he said the occasion on Saturday would be boosted by it being St Patrick's Day which had its own meanings to the Highlanders fans who packed Forsyth Barr Stadium's Zoo end of the ground.

Last year's three losses to the Crusaders came down to losing key moments in games and they had put plans in place that should allow the Highlanders to win those moments.

But the Crusaders had shown how good they were in going on to win the 2017 title.

"At the start of the season we're pretty happy with how we're going but now it's a chance to test ourselves against a really good team," he said.

Dermody said his role as scrum coach was interesting because there wasn't so much time to look back, it was all about looking ahead.

"We are happy with how we're going, we've come through some big tests last week against the Stormers but we know what the Crusaders can bring and we're looking forward to that challenge," he said.

"We know they're a set-piece team and they use that to get into the game and they showed last week against the Hurricanes. I think they mauled 10 out of 14 lineouts, a real weapon for them but I guess it's up to us to try and stop that. I guess that's a challenge of playing rugby."

Dermody said he believed the scrum was still an important part of the game. It was the most confrontational part of rugby and there was a lot of pressure going through the opposition and if you could get on top in that area it could be quite a boost for the team.

Ash Dixon appeared to have recovered from a back injury and it settling down well. It would be a case of seeing how he came through the week. Dermody said utility back Richard Buckman was on track to return in mid-April.