Highlanders can beat Crusaders, says Cooper

The Highlanders coach is steering well clear of the common perception that the Highlanders must target their final-round game against the Chiefs to have any small hope of making the semifinals.

Even when reviewing the comprehensive loss to the Waratahs, Cooper was buoyant about the Highlanders' chances of beating their southern neighbours at Carisbrook.

"We're not thinking about the Chiefs. Our focus is very much the Crusaders now," he said after the 41-20 loss.

"Obviously we're disappointed and we have a lot of areas to work on. Maybe it's a wake-up call.

"The Crusaders are a very good side but I know we can bounce back and we can play so much better."

Cooper was sitting down to the video today to analyse why the Highlanders could not get the ball off the Waratahs and why things went haywire when they did have possession.

He was disappointed in his side's performance in the line-outs, where James Ryan and Tom Donnelly were well shaded by Justin Harrison and Dan Vickerman.

But Cooper was more keen to look for a reason why the Highlanders played like they were uptight, rather than full of confidence after winning their previous six games.

"There was a bit of tension around during the week and that can contribute to a poor performance," he said.

"We looked edgy and our passing was pretty average. Then when the Waratahs put the pressure on, we couldn't break their momentum.

"They've got great ball-carriers and the best line-out in the Super 12 and they deserved to win."

Cooper conceded the Highlanders had been guilty of their worst defensive display of the season and a lack of concentration out wide.

However, he did not anticipate a repeat against the Crusaders.

"You don't come across many teams who are as big and physical right across the park as the Waratahs are," Cooper said.

"The Crusaders backs are nowhere near the size of the Waratahs. In saying that, we can't afford to get exposed anywhere because we'll get punished."

On a positive note, the Highlanders reported no injury problems after the Waratahs game.