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Highlanders want to go one better in Sydney

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Thursday, July 19, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Forced to play much of that game with 14 men after wing Tevita Nabura was sent off for kicking home wing Cameron Clark when competing for a high ball, for which he copped a six-week suspension, the Highlanders needed no reminders about maintaining discipline.

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Coach Aaron Mauger, who shared in four winning Super Rugby championships playing for the Crusaders said his advice to players was to trust in what they do well and to enjoy every moment associated with it

Mauger said it was a good position to be in to have so many of his squad available for selection and they would be looking to take the lessons of the last three weeks to utilise in the quarterfinal.

The Waratahs had played well when beating the Highlanders in the regular season competition but he wondered how they would handle the favouritism going into Saturday night's game. He felt they hadn't handled the favouritism last week against the Brumbies so they were excited about having another crack at them.

"Any time you go to Allianz to play the Waratahs is a tough challenge so we're just looking forward to that challenge, it's a big occasion for us. There's nothing personal about it, [he said of going up against his former Crusaders teammate, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson] it's more about us going out and putting in a good account of ourselves and if we can do that hopefully we can go a bit further in this competition," he said.



The Highlanders are not new to playoff games on the road. When they won the title in 2015 they beat the Waratahs in Sydney to make the final.

Captain and fullback Ben Smith said not playing last week had resulted in he and the other players rested being energised and ready for action in Sydney.

"It's awesome, that's why we play the game to get to these games and moments," he said.

Previous playoffs experience told him that it was all about getting the preparation right during the week and it was the team that turned up best prepared that got to go further in the competition.

"It's exciting and our preparation over the last few days you can tell the energy in this group.

"It's awesome that we've got the majority of our group fit and ready to go," he said.

They had always talked about their whole squad of 39 preparing each week and with everyone firing it was ideal ahead of game day, he said.

"We want to go over there and really execute our game and enjoy being here in the playoffs. We want to push forward in this competition but we can't do that if we don't give ourselves the best chance leading into Saturday," Smith said.