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Founded in 1996, the Highlanders represent the lower south island provinces of North Otago, Otago and Southland, sharing the island with the Crusaders to their north. The Cantabrians, however, typically overshadow their southern peers on the field.
With a strong looking roster, many picked the Highlanders to edge that little bit closer to their heavy-hitting conference rivals. A near certainty for finals, some even fancied their chances of taking out the top gong.
Instead, the Otago franchise had to fight tooth and nail following a horror start. Despite sitting as low as 14th as late as Round 9, they recovered in the second half to finish in eighth and make the finals, only to be crushed by the Crusaders in the first week.
Coach: Aaron Mauger
Captains: Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock
2018 finish: 4th New Zealand conference, 8th overall. Lost quarter-final to Crusaders.
Highlanders 2019 Super Rugby squad
Marty Banks, Richard Buckman, Liam Colton, Josh Dickson, Ash Dizon, Elliot Dixon, Sef Fa’agase, Matt Faddes, Folau Fakatava, Tom Franklin, Shannon Frizell, Bryn Gatland, Kayne Hammington, Jackson Hemopo, Dillon Hunt, Josh Ioane, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, James Lentjes, Tevita Li, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Tyrel Lomax, Josh McKay, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Tevita Nabura, Waisake Naholo, Ray Niuia, Pari Pari Parkinson, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Liam Squire, Rob Thompson, Siate Tokolahi, Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Teihoranhgi Walden, Jack Whetton, Luke Whitelock