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Double goal for Highlanders

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Sportal.co.nz     24 May 2012     Getty Images

The Highlanders have won only once at Eden Park, in 2002, since Super Rugby began in 1996 and that is one of the psychological obstacles they must overcome.

"We need to continue our improved performance against the Bulls last weekend against the Blues," Joseph said. "They've obviously been hurting in recent weeks but we know the ability in their squad.

"The focus is on us achieving some consistency. The big motivator for us is just to carry on and we need to do that if we are going to be contenders."

The Highlanders' season is very much at the crossroads. They are in seventh place with 39 points from eight wins and four losses and the Blues' game is in the must-win category.

The Highlanders beat the Blues 30-27 in Dunedin earlier in the season but only after the Blues turned down two kickable penalties in the last few minutes which would have drawn the game.

"If we stick to our game plan and execute those plans we should be fine but, if we're spasmodic and play for only 50 minutes as we have done in some recent games, we'll come under pressure."

Joseph conceded the week had been disrupted a little by the absence of five Highlanders players at the All Black training camp in Auckland until Wednesday.

"It has been a little bit disrupted but what we've done to try to minimise it was to give the guys an extra day off at the start of the week. I'm assuming our squad members have had a heavy workload in Auckland, mentally if not physically, so we've got to keep it pretty simple."

No.8 Nasi Mani and wing Siale Piutau sat out training in Dunedin on Wednesday, Manu with a hamstring strain and Piutau with a dead leg.

Joseph is confident both should be fit to start on Saturday, which would be Manu's 13th consecutive start.

"There are quite a few players carrying niggles at this stage of the season but it doesn't stop them from playing footy," he said.

Joseph praised the leadership skills of captain Jamie Mackintosh, who is in his second season as Highlanders' skipper.

"His leadership skills have grown immensely and he's a year older and wiser. He's a good example to the younger players, he makes mistakes as everyone does, but he's one of the first guys to look in the mirror and work hard at overcoming them."

The Highlanders team to play the Blues will be announced on Friday morning.