Eben Etzebeth will return to his usual role as vice-captain. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

DUNEDIN – Assistant coach of the Highlanders, Mark Hammett, is aware of the challenging task his team face in their Super Rugby encounter against the Stormers, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday.

Hammett’s team beat the Sunwolves 40-15 last weekend in Invercargill, but the Stormers pose a physically more robust challenge than last week’s opponents.

He was pleased with preparations so far this week. He reflected on the fact that his side had improved in some aspects, which had they practised last week, in the match against the Japanese franchise.

He was not satisfied with other aspects, but was focusing on these in training.

The coach complimented the Sunwolves with regard to progress made over the last year, in aspects like match intensity.

According to him, the Stormer’s capitulation to the Crusaders in Christchurch last week was not typical of their usual high standard.

He said: “They turned some ball over where they normally wouldn’t particularly inside the Crusaders’ 22m so it probably could have been a different sort of game.

“They got a couple of intercept tries, the Crusaders, so we’re not looking so much at that game but more at what they’ve done in the past.

“They’ve been very strong, they’re a dominant, hard-carrying team and they are team that maybe slightly different from some of the African teams as they really try and attack hard out of their 22 at times.”

The former All Blacks hooker was looking forward to the return of openside flank Elliot Dixon, released from hospital on Monday after a leg infection, but that Dillon Hunt had been an able replacement.

“He’s been playing outstandingly well and he just improves week on week. He was thrust into a pretty hard position of not only playing the seven role, we had him in an unfamiliar role in the lineout as well, and I thought he handled that pretty well,” he said.

Hooker Liam Coltman was working on sorting out lineout calls this week, as the home side expects the Stormers to be accurate in this department.