Blues a higher hurdle for Highlanders

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Lynn McConnell     18 Apr 2019     Getty Images

Li, with 54 appearances in Super Rugby, made his debut at this level for the Blues but transferred south early in his career and has become an institution for the team.

However, his experience is a key at the moment in the wake of the loss of All Black Waisake Naholo and fellow Fijian Tevita Nabura, to injuries.

The Highlanders haven't won since round two, and they have already lost to the Blues in Auckland 26-33 this year.

The weekend's challenge would be all the more intense as a result of the Blues' four-game winning streak being ended by the Chiefs last weekend.

But Li believed the Highlanders were up for the game and still believed they had everything to play for.

"It is a little bit frustrating because we are not too far away. I think there is a little bit we can tidy up in our game. Just staying connected and believing in each other because I believe that we can turn the season around.

"We all believe that. We've just got to go out there on Saturday night and play our footy that we like to play with speed and razzle. We just need to believe in each other, trust each other which we doing, and training well, prepare well and put up a good performance," he said.

"Nothing has changed in our environment. We believe the coaches are giving us the tools to go out there and play the brand of footy we want to play. We've just got to keep trusting that and fighting through those tough times," he said.

The Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy was also on the line in the game and not having been without it for some years the Highlanders were determined to hold onto it.

Associated with that was the six-game winning streak at home against the Blues which extends from 2011 but the Highlanders were not thinking too much about that, they were more concerned about controlling what they can do.

Li is also fuelled by a desired to keep growing his own contribution to the side.

"I just feel like there is a few things in my game that I want to improve on. I just want to get the ball more in my hands and attack a bit more," he said.

His work rate, and the input he had off the ball were other areas he wanted to advance while also working inside his halfback or first five-eighths and popping up wherever he could contribute rather than standing on the wing yelling for the ball.

The enclosed environment at Forsyth Barr Stadium would ensure again the game would be a faster than usual contest.

Li said it was good waking up on a Saturday morning knowing the conditions they would be playing in and it was something that suited the Highlanders, and Li if he can get the ball and space to play in.