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Highlanders focused on 2016, not looking back

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Lynn McConnell     25 May 2016     Getty Images

Assistant coach Scott McLeod said the Highlanders were more concerned about keeping themselves in the hunt to contest the play-offs this year.

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Both sides had a bye in the last round and are looking to build towards successful finishes in the remaining four rounds, the last three after the June internationals.

McLeod said the aim during the bye week had been to try and keep momentum going and they trained three out of the five days during the week.

"We are learning about our game still and are building slowly, we're after some momentum into these final rounds," he said.

The replay nature of last year's final was not a factor, they were sitting sixth and seventh on the ladder at the moment, not at the top of the table.

The Highlanders were mindful of the pressure they had been put under early in their most recent games against the Chiefs and the Crusaders, especially through their line breaks. That meant shoring up their defences and trying to put their own pressure on teams rather than having to soak up so much pressure.

The Hurricanes would bring threats across the park and they had good form with their set piece as well, they had a lot of class in their backline and were playing at pace so that should make for a good backline competition between the two sides, he said.

Flanker Dan Pryor said the defensive plan had been working well during the past few weeks and it worked best when everyone bought into it.

While it was disappointing his flatmate Shane Christie was still suffering from his hamstring injury Pryor was enjoying the chance to get some good minutes of action.

"It's good to get a bit of time on the field, it's good for my game. Coming off the bench for 20 minutes, or 10 minutes, doesn't do too much for your game," he said.

There was a temptation to try and do something when getting on the field, but that created a problem of getting out of synch with the required system. In most games the greatest demand had been to put in the defence to close games down.

Pryor confirmed he had signed for another year with the Highlanders.

"My heart was here after last year, the environment here is like nothing I've ever seen.

"You come down here and you feel like you've known everyone for years. There's no egos, there's hunters and surfers and everyone contributes," he said.

Patrick Osborne said he was looking forward to taking up his contract in Japan before returning to the Highlanders next year.

He also confirmed that the was setting his sights on his international future of playing for Fiji. He had grown up with that aspiration and was then tempted to have a shot at the All Blacks, but last year's cyclone which ravaged the country had made him look more to Fiji and to help by playing for them.

When he had first been called into the All Blacks training squad he thought it was a joke. He took the chance to learn as much as possible in that environment, especially after realising he was unlikely to play.

"It was a world-class environment and I wanted to take in everything I could," he said.

But after the Hurricanes game he will return to Fiji to play in their three Test matches against Tonga, Samoa and Georgia.