Highlanders left to wait and see if they make Super playoffs

Sat, Jun 3
The Highlanders huddle on field.

The Highlanders will have their eyes glued to the Super Rugby Pacific action today watching the final games of the regular season with their playoff hopes hinging on two particular results going their way.

Last night's 16-9 loss to the Blues at Eden Park saw the Highlanders miss their chance to seal a place in this year's top eight with five teams heading into the final round contesting the final two spots available for this year's knockout stage.

The defeat was slightly softened late last night by news of the Rebels' 33-17 loss to the Brumbies, which ended Melbourne's hopes of leapfrogging the southerners.

Regardless, the loss in Auckland leaves the Highlanders vulnerable in eighth place with just five wins from 14 games, sitting on 24 points behind the seventh-placed Reds on points difference.

With the Rebels now out of the picture, all eyes turn to today's games in Suva at 4:30pm NZT where the Reds play the Fijian Drua and the Chiefs playing away in Perth against the Force at 11:55pm NZT tonight.

The Highlanders need both away teams to win to stop either the Drua or Force passing them and ending their season.

Both games could be tense affairs though with the Drua already claiming some impressive scalps this season - the second-placed Crusaders and fifth-ranked Hurricanes - when they played on home soil and the Chiefs, who have already secured the No.1 seed for the playoffs, fielding a heavily-rotated squad for tonight's fixture.

Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody conceded "a lot would have to go our way" to keep their season alive but the team holds hope after a gritty, albeit incomplete, performance against the Blues.

Blues flanker Tom Robinson and Highlanders loose forward Shannon Frizell dive for the loose ball.

"As you've seen tonight, we competed for long periods but probably didn't have the polish to take our opportunities," Dermody said.

"We've got nothing to lose, we've pretty much been written off all year... it'll be a good challenge if we can get there."

Dermody said with that in mind, he is already beginning planning for a game next week in Hamilton against the Chiefs.

"We'll plan for playing the Chiefs," said Dermody. "We'll start looking at them.

"That's the only thing you can do and just wait and see what happens."

That planning may not include watching tonight's game though, he added.

"I don't know whether it's a good thing to watch all those games.

"Maybe I'll just wait for a text to come through."


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