Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph is labelling Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Sharks as a dance of the desperate.
The Highlanders have had a bye to digest their bitter 27-28 defeat to the Reds a fortnight ago, while the Sharks enter Friday’s game on the back of losses to the Lions and Blues.
Coach Jamie Joseph says the match starts a mini-season that could well define their Super Rugby destiny.
“Things will start splitting away I think in the next two or three weeks, so with that in mind we need to perform well and win,” he said.
Following Friday, the Highlanders play matches against the leaders of the Australian conference, the Brumbies, and the high-flying Chiefs.
But it’s their upcoming game against the Sharks where Joseph and the Highlanders are focusing all of their attention.
The Highlanders have made a number of changes from the side that lost in Brisbane, the most notable inclusion being co-captain Ben Smith after two weeks sidelined by concussion.
Joseph said leadership was lacking in that defeat, but made sure the attention was paid on the upcoming game against an underperforming Sharks outfit.
“I think the team’s prepped really well. They’ve taken a kick in the buns, some guys have lost their jobs for the week and that’s always unpleasant for those individuals.
“But at the end of the day we’ve got a full squad and we’re really comfortable using everybody, so people have to perform.”
The Sharks bring with them an element of the unknown for Joseph and the Highlanders forwards. The Durban side is in a rebuilding phase following a number of retirements and an injury to captain Patrick Lambie.
They do, however, welcome back the impressive Garth April at first five-eighth, while JP Pietersen is shifted into centre and Odwa Ndungane onto the wing.
History also looks pretty favourably upon the visitors. They’ve won 10 of the 18 clashes between the two sides, and four of nine matches in Dunedin.