Highlanders' injury count mounts
Highlanders' injury count mountsSHARE
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph may well relish the opportunity of an early bye, after his team's already extensive injury list received another casualty.
The Highlanders – who were already without veteran All Black legend Brad Thorn, Jake Paringatai and Tamati Ellison – paid a dear price for their 27-41 loss to the Chiefs.
They were left to dwell on another cruel blow, after they lost No.8 Nasi Manu to a severe ankle injury.
"It looks like he has a broken foot or ankle, which is a major blow to him and the team," Joseph told a media scrum.
"He was in great shape and had been training very well."
Joseph had said earlier he had been frustrated by the Highlanders having the bye so early.
However, next week's break will allow him time to bring some of his more senior players back.
Captain Andrew Hore will return from his ban for that vicious attack from behind on Wales lock Bradley Davies in November last year.
Thorn should both be back for the March 9 game against the Cheetahs in Invercargill.
The 38-year-old, who will become the oldest player to play Super Rugby when he eventually takes to the field, missed the loss to the Chiefs with a calf injury sustained in the pre-season build-up.
The Highlanders looked good in patches, but too often that crucial final pass failed to find the man, and the Chiefs just stayed in the game and skipped clear in the last quarter of the match.
"We need to sort our line-out out," Joseph said.
"You can't play a champion team and lose most of your lineout ball and expect to win."
Joseph said the passion and endeavour of the less experienced players could not be faulted but that the Highlanders as a squad had been given a lesson in composure.
''Some of the young guys were eager and tried hard but maybe we lacked a bit of leadership there. It is a bit hard for Hosea [Gear] out on the wing. Perhaps we needed the likes of Horey [suspended captain Andrew Hore] with Brad Thorn backing him up when the game was tight to show a bit of leadership, a bit of composure.''