You're the Highlanders lying fifth on the table, playing smart solid rugby with six wins and two losses. If that pattern continues there will be a place in the Super Rugby playoffs.

The next challenge is tonight against a Brumbies side who have lost a few senior players to injury and are struggling through a sticky patch with three defeats in their last four games.

What's the best strategy for the Highlanders, should coach Jamie Joseph keep pumping everything at the competition or bring out his tactical card?

At some stage he's got to comply with an agreement between the national and Super Rugby coaches that his All Blacks will get several breaks in the series to assist them with their multi-layered schedules.


Joseph looks at his schedule. They've had their two byes and he sifts his assessments and medical reports about how his squad is travelling in this 10-game stretch before a possible place in the finals.

He spells his three All Blacks - Ben and Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa. It was a no-brainer.

Think Canberra, the awkward return travel schedule and the often inhospitable conditions. The Brumbies are battling but the alternate Highlanders can have a go at rattling their confidence while the battered boys rest up.

A few are feeling the pinch. Many were banged up after staving off the Blues rally last week and the Highlanders have a stack of travelling left in the competition. Only two of their last eight games, against the Sharks and Chiefs, are under the roof in Dunedin. The rest, like tonight's game in Canberra, are on the road.

Toss in two games the Highlanders play in South Africa with a stopover match in Perth on the way home and it's obvious Joseph and his crew will need to manage their men through the rest of the series.

He could have left his All Blacks out of the trip to South Africa and met up with them again in Perth but he's figured this return trip and game in Canberra is one of the least preferred visits on the calendar.

Best to keep his senior All Blacks happy before the next match at home against the Sharks.

It's also a great chance for promising fullback Trent Renata, halfback Fumiaki Tanaka and a fully repaired Richard Buckman to get into the backline action.


Most of the inquiries will come for the pack, with the Brumbies sure to ramp up that part of their game after being stung by last week's loss to the Rebels and the defeat by the Blues.

But expect the Highlanders to try a few things to take the Brumbies away from the comfort of their set-piece and home ground surroundings. This is a game for the Highlanders to switch up their styles and look to avoid lineout and scrum confrontation.