Highlanders seek quick return of momentum

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Lynn McConnell     08 Mar 2018     Getty Images

Coming off a bye can be a mixed bag, but after only one game it is an even greater test. Will the Highlanders be able to regain the momentum they enjoyed after their first-up win over the Blues, or even the fact the Stormers have lost their two games on tour be an advantage in terms of game preparedness?

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said his side had made good use of their week off and had prepared well for the African threat.

Mauger said the Stormers had shown in patches of their games against the Waratahs and Crusaders that they were dangerous and a physical and abrasive side.

"They really rely on momentum, especially in their forward pack and [Damian] de Allende does a lot of carrying for those guys as well and they've got some real threats in the broken field so [Dillyn] Leyds, [Seabelo] Senatla and Raymond Rhule, those boys out in the wider channels are pretty dangerous so we're well aware of the threats that are coming.

"We've prepared well for that and are looking forward to that challenge," he said.

While they were happy with their win over the Blues in their opening game there were aspects they wanted to improve on. They had worked hard on those during the bye week and were looking to be sharper in those areas on Friday night, he said.

"We're about constant improvement and we're working hard to make sure we are improving our performances each week," he said.

Among the areas for attention was executing bobbled ball because teams like the Blues and Stormers had the capacity to make teams pay for transgressions while they were also looking to tidy up after kicks

Shannon Frizell and Tevita Nabura would be making their debuts, Nabura starting and Frizell off the bench. They had worked hard through the pre-season, Mauger said, and that was a credit not only to themselves but to the staff for getting them to the point where they were the best they could be.

"One thing we know is that if we are going to go deep into our season we are going to have to use our squad," he said.

And the game was a good chance to get two young players exposed to this level of play.

"Nabura is a big man to have out wide and he had great finishing ability, he's great in the air. He's shown us all those things through the pre-season and performed very well at the Tens in the three games we played there and against the Waratahs in our first pre-season game.

"He really deserves that opportunity to get out there and express his game on Friday night," he said.