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Highlanders set sights on reclaiming prestigious trophy from Blues

Highlanders set sights on reclaiming prestigious trophy from Blues

All BlacksMay 16, 2024

Former Highlanders and Blues coach Gordon Hunter was not known by those from the Highlanders and Blues teams playing in DHL Super Rugby Pacific in Auckland on Saturday, but his memorial trophy will be an incentive for both sides.

The Blues hold the trophy but the Highlanders are keen to get it back and after having memories of Hunter explained by their director of rugby Jamie Joseph, they will also hear about him from another of his players Marc Ellis ahead of the game.

Joseph said, "Gordie was a really special coach, and he had the ability to motivate his players like no other coach I've met. We have been talking about Gordie this week in the team, and they feel honoured to be able to play for him this weekend. He belongs back home in in Dunedin."

Improving stocks of players returning from injury has bolstered the Highlanders for the last few weeks of the regular season and that was evident in the performance of their bench against the Crusaders at the weekend.

Coach Clarke Dermody said, "The game was set up by the guys who started. This year we've been in positions where the bench is coming on, really to chase a game to try and win it.

"So, the fact we were in front and had good momentum in the game helped them coming on with clear roles. They went out and did what was asked of them, no more, no less. You could see it was a team performance right to the end in that last offensive set."

Being able to name an unchanged team was a rare occasion for the Highlanders but Dermody said it was reward for the last few weeks.

"It's a pretty settled team now, and then the boys that played the Crusaders executed the plan and did a great job."

While Cameron Millar's advance in recent weeks against Moana Pasifika and the Crusaders had been recognised, another young player, Jack Taylor, came on and was physical against the Crusaders.

"He's a huge talent, young for a front rowers, but he's getting plenty of game time off the bench now. He's not the biggest guy around, but he's got a great mindset to be physical.

And while the Blues are sitting at the top of the table for the first time this season, the Chiefs and Hurricanes were playing good rugby as well.

"The Blues are playing with a lot of confidence. They're winning close games, which is always a sign that they've got good belief in what they're doing, they're a good team. It [Eden Park] is a hard place to go and win."

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