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Southern derby retains its flavour

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Thursday, March 15, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Highlanders have preferred Aki Seiuli at loosehead prop for the game, and that had something to do with the Crusaders ability to lift their game in the second half when introducing their own substitutes. That's when Daniel Lienert-Brown is likely to be injected into the game.

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Assistant coach Mark Hammett said Seiuli could be a destructive scrummager and he was very fit and mobile. He was a good ball runner and was part of a tactical choice for the Highlanders at scrum time. He had been around the side for a season or two and had learnt plenty in that time.

"It's been great seeing his progress over the last two years," Hammett said.

Specific emphasis on losses last year to the Crusaders had not been a factor in preparation but Hammett said the lessons about key moments in games had been taken from those losses and used, not only for the Crusaders game, but for the season's campaign as a whole.

"It's been a focus of part of our year…about how we become more resilient and smarter during times in the game. We saw it against the Blues, very tight at the back end of the game. We got through a bit of that adversity and came out on the right side and we're only in game three so we'll see if we've learnt some lessons," he said.



Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said they had made an early decision to rest Ryan Crotty due to the number of concussions he had suffered. His replacement Tim Bateman was a smart player who was a 'highly technical, tactical player' and would add a different flavour to the backline.

By comparison, captain and lock Sam Whitelock had achieved all his requirements under the HIA process and had been so full of energy the management had to pull him back a little which Robertson felt was a great sign.

He was looking forward to a typical game in the running conditions at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The Highlanders played at a high tempo and they threw the odd surprise at sides while being creative and playing a great brand of rugby.

They knew what the defensive demands would be with the Highlanders looking to run teams off their feet. They had played them often enough and they knew what to expect.

Robertson said the review of the Hurricanes loss had shown the key was completing key moments of execution in what were the big games.

"We had an opportunity to come back and win that so we need to make sure we learn from those and move on," he said.