No shortage of motivation for Highlanders in Dunedin
Motivation is not difficult for the Highlanders at home against the Rebels in DHL Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday – they want a playoff place, and to achieve it, they must win.
The Highlanders sit second to last on the ladder but within three points of the eighth-placed Force.
Coach Clarke Dermody said: "We have to win. We're in a position now where we've been wanting to win for a month but haven't quite got it done.
"We've been in pretty much every game so far in the last month but haven't been able to nail it. We're at home, and we have to beat a pretty good Rebels team that play a different brand probably than a lot of the other Australian teams. They like to move the ball and will be looking forward to getting here and targeting us because of the season we've had so far."
The Highlanders have named Sam Gilbert as second five-eighths.
Dermody said, "Whenever we've put him in there, he's done a good job.
"He's covered there a fair bit, but this week he gets an opportunity to start there. So I guess we're looking to try to free up our attacking game a bit more."
That choice also allows Conor Garden-Bachop to start at fullback.
Both teams are on the hunt for a spot in the finals 🤯— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 18, 2023
Who gets the win in tomorrow's #HIGvREB clash?#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/lFzIQBYAx4
"Last week Conor was great. We knew we were going to get a lot of high ball and he dealt with that really well. He set up our counterattack and he's willing to have a go so there was a bit of that and also having a distributor at 12 [second five-eighths]. Sam's a very good communicator and we're looking for him to set up our attack."
However, in the pack, locking stocks are still not typical. As a result, Shannon Frizell will have another start in the engine room, where he will partner with Max Hicks.
"Shannon did a great job there last week and we are looking for the same again this week," he said.
That allows Sean Withy to play on the blindside flank, with Billy Harmon and No8 Hugh Renton completing the loose forward mix.
Dermody said it would be no surprise if the Rebels looked to apply pressure on the Highlanders' pack.
"Looking at a team full of loose forwards, that's probably an area they want to have a crack at. So the boys will probably welcome that.
"We finished the game against the Brumbies, who are not too bad at the set piece, with all our loose forwards on the pitch and we acquitted ourselves well in the set piece."
Your Highlanders team to take on the Melbourne Rebels On Saturday, 4.35pm!— Highlanders (@Highlanders) May 18, 2023
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