Rugby: Joseph upbeat despite Highlanders' lack of tries in the pre-season

By Steve Hepburn

Liam Sopoaga needs to spark the Highlanders' attack. Photo / Getty Images
Liam Sopoaga needs to spark the Highlanders' attack. Photo / Getty Images

The Highlanders have scored only three tries in the pre-season but coach Jamie Joseph is not pushing any panic buttons over his attack.

Joseph and company returned to Dunedin after playing in Newcastle last Friday night, falling 19-16 to the Waratahs.

The Highlanders have had a win (15-11 over the Brumbies) and two losses (28-15 to the Crusaders and the defeat to the Waratahs) in the pre-season.

During those three games, the Highlanders have scored a paltry three five-pointers but Joseph is not worried about that statistic.

"With pre-season this year we wanted to approach the games like we were playing in the competition proper. We wanted to give our kickers the shots at goal when there was a bit of pressure on," he said.

"We have got a young side so we need to learn how to build a game and what to do. Sometimes in pre-season it can be all about attack and everything gets a bit unstructured.

We wanted to go away from that."

Joseph was generally happy with the effort of his side last Friday, saying but for individual mistakes, which happened in every game, the side could have scored more tries.

"It was nothing to panic about. There were just little small mistakes, a knock-on, we would breach the line and then push the pass.

"Defensively, I was quite happy. The guys were really working hard to get back when their attack went through. We were playing against a side which had something like 12 Wallabies and they were a big team."

Some players picked up a few bumps and bruises but nothing too serious.

Players had been hit by a tummy bug on the Saturday and there were some sick players coming back to Dunedin at the weekend.

Joseph hoped it was temporary and the payers would be back to full health when training resumed this week in preparation for the first match of the season against the Blues, at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

Overall, Joseph was happy with what they had achieved during the pre-season. Apart from the first 40 minutes against the Crusaders, when the Highlanders trailed 21-3 at the break, he felt the side had performed well.

Players had stayed focused and there had been a good show of attitude.

"We are not going to be a team of stars. We are just going to be a group of hard-working guys who will play for each other all day."

The focus for the team now switches to the Blues, who have lost all three of their pre-season matches, including going down 43-19 to the Chiefs at the International Stadium in Rotorua last Friday night.

But Joseph is reading little into the pre-season record of the Blues.

"We have read all the reports from them but we won't be taking much notice of them. We know they will be an entirely different team than the one which has been playing in the pre-season."

- Otago Daily Times

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