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Excited to be facing Australian champion

11 May 2021
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The Highlanders return to Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday. Photo: Getty Images

The Highlanders will reset and refresh to attempt to go out and win the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.

The side came back together late last week and will kick off the new competition by taking on the Australian Super Rugby title winning Reds on Friday night under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Highlanders assistant coach Riki Flutey said yesterday the Reds would be a tough opponent and the side would have to be on its game.

"We know going into the Reds — first up they are champions — [they] are a well balanced side on both sides of the ball, both in attack and on defence.

"We know a lot about the way they play. And I think there is a lot of excitement around both in our camp and out in the community."

He said playing an Australian side and not more familiar New Zealand opponents was something for the side to get excited about.

"You look at the Aussie teams and the Reds were very physical at the breakdown, look to set piece you. Look at Brad Thorn and how he played and it is almost a mirror of what we saw as him as a player in terms of the way they are playing the game.

"They have got athletes in their team. They can be physical. It is going to be a challenge for us New Zealand sides but one we are looking forward to."

The Highlanders had finished their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign on a disappointing note, going down 41-22 to the Hurricanes on April 30, delivering a second half where the side showed little attacking flair.

Flutey said the team had taken a long, hard look at the loss. It highlighted the need to concentrate on taking opportunities and how to go into a week of training with the right preparation.powered by Rubicon Project

Flutey will get a more senior role in the new competition and has been running the side’s structured attack from the start of the season. He will be joined by Highlanders development coach Kane Jury, who is looking after the unstructured attack.

Flutey has no concerns about the moving around of roles by the coaching team, as head coach Tony Brown leaves for Japan to help coach the Brave Blossoms national team. Brown is due to leave Dunedin tomorrow.

Flutey said he could not take the credit for some of the crafty tries scored by the Highlanders this season off set pieces.

"It is a collaborative approach with the way we do things round here. The leaders have an input and myself and Browny.

"Tony has set us up very well. The leaders have done an amazing job this year. The way Tony Brown leads the environment — he has given the leaders a voice and given them roles both on and off the field.

"As an assistant coach, he has given a lot of responsibility to us right from the start. He is going to be in touch most of the days and giving us feedback for the games."

Flutey had been down on the sideline for all games this year and said yesterday no decision had been made over whether he would move to the coaches’ box with the departure of Brown.

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