Facing the unbeaten Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday would demand the best of every Highlander on the field in their Super Rugby Pacific game.
Coach Clarke Dermody said it had been disappointing in their two games in Australia that they tailed off in their crucial final quarter against the Force and Waratahs.
"Both games, we put ourselves in a position to win, and we didn't execute the last 20 minutes," he said.
"The Chiefs play for 80 minutes, as we saw last week against the Crusaders, so that's going to be the challenge, and that's what we expect of the boys this week."
While they might not dominate the statistical side of the game in possession and position, their game drivers, first five-eighths Damian McKenzie, fullback Shaun Stevenson and halfback Brad Weber, were players who only needed one or two chances to take to turn things to their advantage.
Selection for Friday had been mindful of the Chiefs' kicking game. They kicked most in the competition and kicked farthest, which meant much covering play.
CHIEEEEFSSS— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 3, 2023
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Wing Scott Gregory demonstrated that in his return to the wing in Sydney.
"He gave us a work rate. He chased kicks, contested in the air, and worked back on counterattack. That's the stuff like that that we need. We need guys working hard on the field.
"These are the games the players really look forward to – testing themselves against the best. They haven't been beaten this year. But just imagine if we beat them here."
Dermody said Burns' injuries meant he hadn't played as much as they wanted, but games like the Chiefs were why he was contracted.
"He's hugely experienced; he can control a game and, hopefully, unlock our backline.
"The good players look forward to these games, and I know he's looking forward to playing with Aaron [Smith], because it's the first game he will have played with him."
Other changes have been possible after players returned from injuries, creating selection pressure each week.
"It's up to the guys that get the opportunity to nail the performance, which hopefully happens this week so that we can keep a settled selection.
"That's something we haven't been able to do, through injuries and form."
However, they are still taking their time with wing Jona Nareki, who returned in the final quarter against the Waratahs last week and is on the bench on Friday.
"We don't want to rush him. He was a bit rusty against the Waratahs, and, hopefully, we can get him more time against the Chiefs and set him up for the back end of the season."
The Highlanders host the Chiefs on Friday 5 May, 7.05pm NZT, at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
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