Numbers don t add up for Highlanders
Junior Rasolea

The Highlanders have one of the worst defensive records in Super Rugby.

Statistics show they have missed more than 22 tackles a game and allowed opponents the most offloads in the competition.

What the figures don't show is that they have beaten the Blues and came close to edging title favourites the Chiefs.

This is why Western Force coach Michael Foley takes little notice of the numbers.

He is interested in the detail. Where errors were made, who made them and how his side can exploit them in today's clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

"Sometimes stats can tell lies," Foley said.

"You look for trends, who has missed tackles, but you look at why they have missed tackles.

"Sometimes they've missed tackles while they're covering someone else who has missed tackles.

"What's really important for us is to respect the Highlanders as an opposition which is a very different one from the one we played last year.

"They have come out this year and put two very impressive performances together, beating the Blues and giving the Chiefs a real shake."

Foley's side will pay particular notice to All Black Ben Smith, who is outstanding at injecting himself into the line from full-back.

When that happens, Smith is likely to attack the outside centre channel where Junior Rasolea will come under scrutiny.

"Ben is an excellent broken field runner," Foley said.

"There are times in the game when you've got to kick and chase your kicks. If you don't do that properly, you will get punished."

Securing possession at the breakdown is a priority against coach Jamie Joseph's side.

"A couple of seasons back the Highlanders under Jamie were the side that forced more turnovers at the breakdown than any other team," Foley said. "That's been a feature of their game over the last couple of seasons.

"The Highlanders exposed the Blues early by putting pressure on them. They scored points as a result of defensive pressure.

"They play a lot of wide balls and if our defensive structure is too tight around the ruck they can cut out a lot of defence.

"The job for us is to get good quality ball. We must keep the ball moving up the field."

┬ĚThe Melbourne Rebels fell to their second successive loss as the Crusaders flexed their muscle with a 25-19 win at AAMI Park last night.

The West Australian

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