Away challenge new test for Highlanders

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Highlanders' assistant coach Glenn Delaney said every morning waking up after a game day there was a new challenge on the horizon and a Hurricanes team that had been playing well was exactly that.

"It's going to be an epic challenge, they're playing really well. We've analysed them and we think they're playing some very good football. They've got threats across the park and they defend aggressively. We can't wait to be involved," he said.

Second five-eighths Ngani Laumape was playing well for his pack while wing Julian Savea was in great form and the surprise package this year was wing Ben Lam. That was without mentioning the Barrett brothers.

"Put that in there and you start to think defence coaches don't sleep too well when you face that sort of opposition but it is the sort of challenge we're looking forward to," he said.

The Highlanders have been focusing on what has been in front of them and getting little parts of their game right. The work had been going in and the team management felt it had been a good month.

He said in his first experience in the Super Rugby environment it had been interesting learning about working with players from different areas than those from Canterbury with whom he won last year's Mitre 10 Cup competition.

Being in Dunedin the game tempo was higher under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium. He enjoyed an aggressive mindset in defensive play, his specialist area, and he felt the Highlanders had that mindset.

They were trending at conceding two tries a game and he would like to pull that back a little.

While Sanzaar had felt the need to issue guidelines on contact between players and referees, in the wake of Ben Smith's query regarding a disallowed try for Jordan Taufua at the weekend, Delaney said the Highlanders would accept the situation. At the same time he said communication was important, as was good liaison between players and the referees.

"The game is a game of decision-making both as players and referees. Everyone's out there making decisions and doing a really good job and I think having that dialogue is really important.

"It's down to Sanzaar to determine what we can and what we can't do and we'll follow whatever they have to say," he said.

However, he said it would be disappointing if they weren't able to have empathetic discussions on the field.