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Ellison boost for Highlanders

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Sportal.co.nz     10 May 2012     Getty Images

Ellison limped from the field after straining his right knee during the 16-28 loss to the Sharks in Durban last weekend.

But Ellison trained with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Wednesday, albeit with his knee strapped.

"There were good signs today," head coach Jamie Joseph said. "Tamati took a knock to his knee in Durban and we thought it was over for him but he has responded well to ice and rest and he's been running around."

Another encouraging sign was that of utility forward Nick Crosswell, one of the outstanding contributors of the early season, training fully after a lengthy absence with a knee injury.

"It's good to have Crossy back," Joseph said. "He played club rugby at the weekend and it would be nice to see from him some of that form he showed early in the competition."

New recruit, Southland flanker Tim Boys, who has replaced the injured Doug Tietjens, trained fully and he might well slip straight into the No 7 jersey on Saturday night.

"We've had a hell of a lot of injuries all year," Joseph said. "It's a great opportunity for Tim and the other players who have been brought in."

Captain Jamie Mackintosh is being spelled from training this week after playing all 10 games and lock Jarrad Hoeata missed practice on Wednesday because of a family bereavement in the Taranaki.

The match at the weekend is the start of a make-or-break phase of the season for the Highlanders. They beat all four New Zealand franchises in the first half of the competition and they would have to almost emulate that achievement to make the playoffs.

Joseph said the players were coping with the travel and jetlag factor as best they could.

"It's not too bad. We had an extra day in Auckland and the guys flew business class from South Africa. It's just something all teams have to deal with."

"The Hurricanes are obviously playing really good rugby and they had a fine win against the Blues. They're well led by Conrad [Smith]. The captaincy has made him an even better player, if that's possible.

"They're gelling really nicely and that's a pleasing sign for Mark [coach Mark Hammett] and his team. We're going to have to be at our best to combat them."