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Joseph believes Highlanders can lift game

While they have done one and a half trips around the world in the last month, the Highlanders are making the most of extra time in their build-up to their Investec Super Rugby semi-final with the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday (NZT).

Coach Jamie Joseph believed the side had absorbed plenty from their lacklustre effort against the Brumbies in the quarter-final and were enjoying the chance to prepare well ahead of the Lions.

"Three or four weeks ago we came over here without our All Blacks, and the tough challenge of preparing for a match against the Kings. They actually took it to us for 67 minutes and in the end we ran away with it but this is a different type of challenge," he said.

"It's finals footy obviously. It's a game we've been working towards all year and after a really average performance against the Brumbies which we reflected and reviewed today as a team and have put that behind us and it is Day One of six days preparing for the Lions in a semi-final."

Joseph said whereas the last round of the round-robin season, at home against the Chiefs had been an outstanding game full of attack and desire from two teams wanting to win, the Brumbies game had been marked as only a six out of 10 that the Highlanders were fortunate to win.

"The boys are pretty keen to rectify that and to go out and play our style of footy against a very good Lions team.

"They've consistently been a good team. They beat the Chiefs on their first tour to New Zealand. We had a good game against the Lions but since they've been back in South Africa they've gone from strength to strength. If they didn't rest their top 15 they would have finished top of the list I believe," he said.

"Unlike the other South African teams they play a running type of football…they've got a total game and I guess that's one of the reasons why they are still here at this stage of the competition and we play them at their home ground in Johannesburg at Ellis Park.

"We know what it's like here, we played here last year and were ahead by a few points at halftime but their spirit and tenacity came back and blew us away really so the challenge is in front of us, we're really looking forward to it," he said.

The side will have Marty Banks on the bench after recovering from injury. Prop Siosiua Halanukonuka is out for the remainder of the season having torn ankle ligaments. He had been a big find for the side, could play both sides of the scrum and would play a big part in the Highlanders future, Joseph said.

He also felt having eight days to prepare for the game was a luxury and the side had enjoyed having to make only the one flight from Sydney to Johannesburg. They had remained in Australia after the Brumbies game to learn where they would next play.