Evans and Cooper remain defiant




Highlanders coach Greg Cooper and his chief playmaker, fly-half Nick Evans, have warned detractors not to write them off just yet.

Evans played his first Super rugby game last Friday when the Highlanders went down the Blues in Auckland in a second half landslide.

But the impressive Evans believes his side are still in the Super 14 race, despite losing their third game in the contest.

“We’ve only had one home game and we’re in week five,” Evans told New Zealand’s Sunday News.

“We dealt to the Stormers the week before and there’s no reason we can’t deal to anyone else down at Carisbrook,” he said.

“There’s a lot of young guys in our side but there’s a lot of belief and we’ll show that when we’re back at home.

“There’s about nine or 10 young guys who haven’t played before at this level.

“They’re growing into the game and they’ll get better as this competition goes on. If I can stay on the field long enough hopefully, I’ll help them a bit more.

“We’re very disappointed with the final result [against the Blues] and also that we were in the game for 60 minutes and then let it slip at the end. That happens so often up here against the Blues.

“But there are positives. We were leading at halftime and dominated even though we were on defence for a lot of the time.

“We know we can compete against one of the so-called best teams in the competition and if we can compete against them we can compete against anybody.”

On his own form, Evans declares that there was “good and bad” in his return from injury.

“I was a bit rusty out there,” he said.

“I wasn’t trying to change the world, I was concentrating on doing the basics and I’ll do the same next week. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my best the following week.”

His coach, Greg Cooper, believed Evans turned in a worthy performance.

“The message I gave to him before the match was to not go out there and try to be the saviour and win the match, but to get himself back into the game,” Cooper said.

“By and large he’d have to be happy with that first-up performance given that he only had 40 minutes of rugby in a pre-season match and 20 minutes of that was with a broken leg.”

365 Digital

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