Competition for the Highlanders' halfback role may not be confined to Super Rugby Pacific if Folau Fakatava can build on the impression he made in 2020.
Back from the injury that restricted his 2021 season Fakatava was pleased with how his knee handled his taste of play against the Chiefs on Saturday and is looking forward to better things as the season progresses.
Fakatava said it was good to get back on the field. He had put his faith in his rehabilitation work and preparation in the week before the game, and his knee had come through well.
He enjoyed his competition with fellow halfback and All Blacks great Aaron Smith and was learning plenty from him. If that reached fruition, he said he would be happy to take the chance to play for New Zealand.
"If not, I could play for Tonga. I don't really focus on my eligibility, I am just focusing on each week and my performance out there," he said.
Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman said of the weekend performance that dropped ball at vital times cost the Highlanders, but the Chiefs had played well, and it was up to the southerners to take the lessons from the game.
They were fine-tuning their game on Monday and working on getting to where they needed it to be ahead of the Crusaders on Friday.
Fakatava said improving the handling could make a difference in games, and they needed to get better.
Coltman warned that speeding up the setting of scrums, a goal of referees and administrators in 2022, needed to be handled carefully. He said he understood the rationale behind lifting the game's speed, especially at the scrum. But, because the scrum was so technical, it had to be handled correctly. If set too quick, players could get badly hurt, he said.
"It takes both sides and we have to be ready and on to go as fast as we can but there has also got to be a bit of safety and mindfulness on that," he said.
Being back at their home ground would be a boost, but it would be a massive loss not having the Zoo occupied, especially with the students all back in town, Coltman said.
"It's still a home game for us and we take that with immense pride, especially being under the roof. We don't want to let anyone come into our territory and have their way so we've got to go out there and put in a good performance, so all the people watching at home can be proud of that too," he said.
The Crusaders presented an opportunity for those who played them, they were a world-class side, and it would be a big battle for the Highlanders upfront. They felt they performed well against the Chiefs in that area, but there was still room for improvement.
"We've got to nail our plan, and detail, during the week and come game time be ready for it," he said.
FIXTURES UPDATE | Round 2 looks a little different with the postponement of @ChiefsRugby vs @MoanaPasifika_— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 21, 2022
But there is still plenty of code on this weekend#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/eMbIrSeGMn