As the Highlanders body count grows, head coach Tony Brown can only shrug his shoulders and hope for better times ahead.

Brown told Radio Sport Breakfast that, after two rounds, he has already had to venture outside his extended Super Rugby squad to make up numbers ahead of this weekend's clash the Blues at Eden Park.

"We're right through the Otago team, Southland," he admitted. "We just brought in a young kid from Bay of Plenty, James O'Reilly, as hooker.

"We just let them come in and fit into the environment first, then slowly the players will start picking them up and helping them out with what they need to know.


"The coaching team do a great job in trying to get them up to speed as quickly as possible, learning their roles and trying to do the right thing at the right time."

Brown, the former All Blacks first-five, is feeling the pressure, suffering two unlucky defeats to start the season and watching a stream of players limp to the side-lines in the process.

International fullback Ben Smith is still suffering the affects of concussion from an opening loss to the Chiefs, while loose forward Liam Squire is the most notable casualty from last week's heartbreaker against the Crusaders.

"At the moment, because we're 0-2, we're trying to keep the confidence in the team that all these guys coming in can do the job and we are going to be successful," said Brown.

"We haven't had a lot of luck. We could easily be 2-0, but for a few decisions not going our way and injuries at the wrong time, especially losing Ben in that first game and then two guys after a minute in the game last week.

"We haven't got the luck at the moment, but that's footy as well. We're hoping we'll get a lot of luck at the end of the campaign, which will be the important time."

Having lost a player in warm-ups and another in the opening seconds of play, the 2015 champions were already running short of reserves, when Squire suffered an early knee injury and had to play on.

As the toll mounts, Brown will naturally lean a little heavier on the stars that remain and he is confident that there is enough firepower in the Highlanders to keep hopes alive, while the wounded recover from their injuries and return to action.

Players like Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa have been a shade off the pace, but Brown is now relying on them to step up.

"I think everyone can see that they're not quite on the money at the moment. In the Chiefs game, execution was really poor and then, against the Crusaders, we were awesome for 50 minutes and then fell off the pace a bit and made a few uncharacteristic errors.

"I think, naturally, they will be able to go longer now, because they've got two games under their belts. The problem we've had with our All Blacks is asking them to win us games of rugby, when they've only played 40 minutes in the pre-season.

"That's just game-time, for me, and this week, they'll be better for those two runs and we've still got enough quality to do well in this competition."

Brown is hoping Smith can return to the line-up for their road game against the champion Hurricanes next week.

"It's always tough with concussion and we're never, ever going to rush Ben Smith.

"He's got a big year ahead of him, but even though he's not playing, he's been awesome for us. He ran water and messages on the weekend, and he's been at training this week, so he's improving.

"We want him back as soon as he can. Hopefully that's against the Hurricanes and if not, the Brumbies."