Quarter-final a mini Bledisloe

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Another New Zealand victory kicked off the Super Rugby quarter-finals but again a Kiwi coach was left praising their Australian opposition.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said Friday night’s 15-9 quarter-final thriller was in some ways a Bledisloe preview, with the number of Test players on show.

Joseph said the match was pretty typical of those clashes, an arm wrestle and a result that went down to the wire.

'It was a ding dong arm wrestle': Jamie Joseph“What I saw out there today was about seven or eight All Blacks and about the same amount of Wallabies and the game was a real arm wrestle,” he said.

“That's what you'd expect if the Wallabies were playing the All Blacks and it's probably no different for us.”

“In terms of coming here we have so much respect for the Brumbies, we knew it was always going to be difficult here and when we found out it was going to be wet and a little bit windy as well then it was just going to be a real evener as well.”

The win left Australian teams with just three wins from 26 clashes with New Zealand sides this season, though visitors from across the ditch have been quick to dismiss any suggestion the dominance would transfer into Test season.

Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith said he wasn’t thinking about the upcoming Rugby Championship or any edge the Kiwis might have there, though the final did have a Test-match like intensity.

“After the Super Rugby that's a good chance to reflect and move into the next campaign but I think a good thing is, the guys that are All Blacks in our team really enjoy the environment that's been created and we enjoy playing our footy," he said,

“We want to be in the here and now and not really thinking about anything else.

“I do think it was very much like a Test match.

“There was a lot on the line and it could've gone either way.

“It was that Test match kind of game.”

The Highlanders showed little sign of fatigue despite a hectic travel schedule in the final regular season rounds, that included trip to Port Elizabeth and Argentina before returning to New Zealand and jetting off for Canberra, in a gritty defensive effort in the final minutes of the close quarter-final.

The Highlanders will be sweating on some injuries. Photo: Getty ImagesThe defending champions head back to Sydney on Saturday to await the results of the remaining quarter-finals, with the possibility of heading to South Africa or going back home.

The Otago side has its own share of injury problems to sweat over, with replacement prop Siosiua Halanukonuka suffering an ankle injury that ended his night.