The “Southern Man” approach of humble pride and hard work is bearing fruit for Super Rugby’s southernmost club.
Founded on the efforts of superstars such as Jeff Wilson, Byron Kelleher, Josh Kronfeld and Anton Oliver, the Highlanders were consistent contenders in the early years of Super Rugby, appearing in the 1999 Grand Final against the Crusaders.
When the team moved into its roofed Forsyth Barr Stadium they were in what would be the tenth year of an 11-year stretch without a finals appearance. 2013 saw a tough year for the Club with their worst season on record, posting just three wins and 13 losses to finish 14th.
Then the worm turned. A team-roster boasting some of the game’s most popular international superstars including All Blacks Aaron Smith and Ben Smith, the Highlanders trumped the competition and took home their maiden Championship victory.
In 2016, the Highlanders were the darlings of the competition with their fast and exciting on-field performances and top personalities off the field, earning the highest match attendance and broadcast viewership in the NZ regular rounds.
However, a six week round-the-world travel schedule took its toll and the team bowed out against the Lions at Ellis Park in the Semi Final, narrowly missing out on a repeat of 2015’s Grand Final.