Coach Jamie Joseph is on high alert for the Highlanders’ Super Rugby season opener against the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday night.


The Crusaders suffered a shock 20-10 home loss to the Rebels last Friday and he knows they will not play that badly again.

“Yes, I am wary,” he said.

“Where are they weak? They’re not. They just played well below their best last weekend.

“We know they will be better and we can’t do anything about that. It’s up to us to play well.”

Joseph said his players are up for a big performance in the battle between the two South Island franchises.

“Everyone in our squad wants to be part of this because it’s the Crusaders and it’s our first game,” he said.

“The rivalry with them will always be special.”

Joseph said it had seemed a long pre-season for his players.

“They just need to get out there and play now,” he said.

“It’s about putting in a performance on the track and hopefully getting a win.”

Joseph said there was some hot competition for positions, particularly in the forwards, when it came to deciding the line-up to face the Crusaders.

Props Josh Hohneck and Ross Geldenhuys will both be on debut for the Highlanders, while Kane Hames, one of the standout newcomers last year, is on the bench.

Joseph said Hames was short of match fitness after not playing much for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup and because of injury.

The third player in the starting line-up to wear Highlanders colours for the first time will be winger Waisake Naholo, who takes the place of the injured Richard Buckman.