Highlanders urgency meets Fijian Drua determination to achieve a win in their first game on home soil promises a memorable Super Rugby Pacific game in Suva on Saturday.
Neither side has achieved consistency of success in their campaigns, and their chances to challenge for playoffs berths are diminishing. The winner of the game will put themselves into playoff contention while the loser will be left to crunch the numbers on their mathematical chances.
Highlanders coach Tony Brown said there would be a big crowd for the game.
"It's Fiji's team and ultimately we're taking on the whole country aren't we?" he said.
Halfback and captain Aaron Smith said he was excited to be taking part. There was a lot of energy in the Fijian community about the game.
"As a rugby player, you live to tour and live to play in big games, and it's a big game for us and critical for our season.
"But just to be part of history, it is special to get over here. We've been well looked after, people have been lovely, and they're going to enjoy an awesome game on Saturday night," he said.
Brown is aware of the unorthodoxy that makes the Fijians so dangerous.
The @Fijian_Drua love to exit their on foot!#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/A3jW0wenP5— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 27, 2022
"From the first minute to the last minute, they can do freakish things on the rugby field. And a lot of the time, they get a free licence to do so, whether it's quick throws, quick taps or the bouncing ball.
"That's where Fijian rugby is at its best, so we've got to be switched on from the first minute, and then make sure we don't turn our backs on anyone," he said.
They also offered a challenge to Smith's smaller stature. He said dealing with bigger players was the story of his rugby life, but he would cope with their size and speed by using his skills, experience and the way he plays.
It had been how he coped with bigger South African players. But going out to face the Drua on home soil was a challenge he relished.
"There's going to be times at the weekend when I'm going to have to get among the dirty work, make my tackles. That's my chance to show some courage and show the boys I'm willing to do it too," he said.
Coping with different players was part of rugby, and spontaneous as the Fijians could be, there would also be opportunities for the Highlanders. That was where he wanted to cast his influence against them.
"Physicality and that is great, but playing at speed, attacking, using my skill, I'm excited about that opportunity," he said.
The Fijian Drua host the Highlanders at 2.35pm FST on Saturday.
Blessed to be in Fiji pic.twitter.com/6HvFV42BI1— Aaron Smith (@Te_Nug) April 28, 2022