Fekitoa pushes case for All Blacks selection
April 27, 2014
Aaron Smith crashed over the whitewash for the Highlanders' second try © Getty Images
A stunning Highlanders 34-18 victory over the Sharks on Friday night has seen the side rise to seventh place on the competition ladder, and sit on equal footing with the sixth placed Waratahs. Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu told Fairfax Media that the side's win was helped by an earlier than normal arrival in South Africa thanks to their bye last week.
"It was a tough game, we were coming up against the top side in the competition and we really needed to front up, especially in the forwards, and it was just a great win," Manu said.
Assistant coach and former All Black Scott McLeod was impressed by the side's performance, with the team keeping the Sharks tryless while securing a four-try bonus point. But McLeod said the side couldn't get complacent, calling for more of the same when they take on the Stormers in Cape Town next weekend.
"We put a lot of planning and thought into this trip to South Africa against quality opponents, so to get a performance like that was very pleasing," McLeod said. "[The Sharks] are a very well-coached side and they play some smart footy so to not only attack, but defend and put them under pressure, the boys should be very proud of their effort."
The Cheetahs have defeated the Stormers 35-22 on Saturday night. (Video available in Australia Only)
Although the Sharks looked dominant early a relentless Highlanders pack restricted their opponents to penalties while keeping the scoreboard ticking with three first-half tries. McLeod said Shane Christie's try from the back of a 10m rolling maul was particularly rewarding for the coaching staff.
"Playing against South African sides, they are quite adept and tactical with their rolling mauls and also defending them so [Highlanders coach] Jamie [Joseph] got a reasonably hard slap on the back for that one," McLeod said.
McLeod was full of praise for the side's young outside centre, Malakai Fekitoa after his solo try in the 69th minute and said the star was making a strong claim for an All Blacks spot.
"He is an impressive kid," he said. "He keeps learning and is hungry to learn and perform every single day. The boys are feeding off that, he has brought a lot of energy to the team and it is bloody good to have him."
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