Heightened defence the goal in Sydney

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Highlanders assistant coach Glenn Delaney said there was a different edge to training compared to the regular season this week.

It was a case of the coaches containing the enthusiasm while off the field there had been a lot of good conversations going on about the task ahead.

"What you've got to make sure you do is you don't waste your energy on something that isn't really going to matter. Put all your efforts and energies into critical pieces and nail those on Saturday," he said.

Regaining the mid-season peak they enjoyed was the goal and that was managed by stripping everything back and returning to the foundations of what the side did well and focusing on those. There had been touches of that in the last three games but not for the full 80 minutes of games.

It was a case of making plans clear and simple in order that instincts could take over, he said.

They had played the Waratahs twice this year, once in pre-season play, and there were things they could take from those games. But the New South Wales-based side had played well to qualify and gain home advantage and would be a tough adversary.

With defensive issues having reared themselves in the last few weeks, Delaney said they had a poor half when conceding 42 points to the Chiefs in Suva and had paid the price for that, although there had been a decent second half in that game.

Against the Crusaders a week later the performance was improved with the sides even at halftime with the Crusaders getting a turnover try just after the break which altered the balance. That game had shown how much 80-minute commitment was needed by the Highlanders to stay in the contest.

By comparison, against the Rebels at the weekend, a couple of random turnovers had boosted the visitors but overall he hadn't been too worried about that performance. There wasn't a lot that could be done about chargedowns resulting in tries.

The defensive effort had been better and personified by Waisake Naholo's tackle to stop a Rebels' last-gasp assault and which he felt was in the Highlanders' DNA.

It was important to stay on the desired process and keep feeding their ability to attack.

"One of the big positives from our defence is our ability to score tries from it and I think we're near enough to leading the competition in that so that's an area for us to keep focusing on that when we get it right and turn the ball over we score.

"We want our defence to be a try-scoring defence," he said.

Good defence meant opposing sides had to attack for long phases against them and that had been an aspect of the entire Highlanders campaign.