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Highlanders – Rugby Union Club Team

A pair of rugby shoes next to a rugby ball on grass.

Are you ready to learn about one of New Zealand’s most exciting rugby union clubs? The Highlanders, established in 1996, are a force within the Super Rugby competition. This article promises to unravel their journey, showcasing the team’s history, key players, and notable achievements.

Dive into the thrilling world of Highlander rugby with us!

Key Takeaways

  • The Highlanders Rugby Club, formed in 1996, represents the Otago and Southland regions of New Zealand and plays home matches at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
  • They won the Super Rugby title once, securing their maiden victory in 2015 against the Hurricanes with a final score of 21-14.
  • Notable players who have worn the Highlanders jersey include Justin Marshall, Richard Loe, Jarrad Hoeata, Lima Sopoaga, and Ben Smith.
  • The club has a development team to nurture young talent and ensure continued success whilst engaging actively with local communities to promote rugby growth.
  • Preparing for Super Rugby Pacific expansion involves exploring potential new signings to strengthen their squad and maintaining community programmes that foster grassroots participation.

History of the Highlanders Rugby Club

Formed in 1996, the Highlanders Rugby Club represents the Otago and Southland regions of New Zealand. The team has undergone previous name and colour changes as it has evolved over the years.

Formation in 1996

The Highlanders burst onto the professional rugby scene as part of the inaugural Super 12 tournament in 1996. Hailing from New Zealand’s deep south, they brought together the might of North Otago, Otago, and Southland provinces under one banner.

With their entry into this elite rugby championship, they proudly represented a region passionate about its rugby heritage.

Assembled to compete at the highest level, the team donned blue, gold, and maroon jerseys symbolising their connection to these local areas. Coached by Gordon Hunter and led on-field by an unannounced captain during that opening season, they quickly established themselves as fierce competitors within the new structure of southern hemisphere rugby union tournaments.

Playing initial home matches at Hostel Field laid down a marker for future success on familiar grounds amidst loyal fans waiting to witness history unfold with every match played.

Representing the Otago and Southland regions

The Highlanders represent the Otago and Southland regions in New Zealand. The team was formed as one of five franchises for the Super 12 in 1996, encompassing the provinces of North Otago, Otago, and Southland.

With a rich history dating back to its foundation on 4 January 1922, at the Palace Hotel in Inverness, the club has deep roots within these regions. Home matches were originally played at Hostel Field and now take place at Forsyth Barr Stadium, solidifying their connection to these areas.

The squad comprises players from these regions who bring their local pride onto the field alongside others from across New Zealand; it’s this blend that captures the essence of representing Otago and Southland.

Previous name and color changes

Representing the Otago and Southland regions, the Highlanders have undergone several name and color changes throughout their history. The team was originally known as the Otago Highlanders but changed to simply “The Highlanders” in 2000.

In terms of colors, they started with a predominantly blue strip in their early years before incorporating gold into their uniform. This change in identity has been reflective of the evolution and growth of the club over time.

The club’s name adaptations and alterations to its colors have not only kept things fresh but also aligned with the changing dynamics within rugby culture. Adapting to new identities has allowed the team to embrace progress while staying true to its roots, capturing both tradition and innovation on and off the field.

Players and Squad

The Highlanders Rugby Club boasts a talented current squad and wider training squad, which includes notable players from around the world. The coaching and management team work tirelessly to develop and nurture the team’s talent.

Current squad and wider training squad

  1. The current squad comprises seasoned players who bring a wealth of experience, leadership, and skill to the team.
  2. Notable names in the current squad include key players who have consistently contributed to the team’s success in recent seasons.
  3. The wider training squad consists of young, talented individuals who are being nurtured for potential future promotions to the main squad.
  4. These promising talents undergo rigorous training and development programmes under the guidance of experienced coaches and staff.
  5. The club emphasises nurturing talent from within, providing opportunities for young players to train alongside established stars, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and growth.

Notable players

The Highlanders have had several outstanding players who have made significant contributions to the team and the sport of rugby. Here are some notable players who have left a lasting impact on the Highlanders:

  1. Justin Marshall – A scrum-half with exceptional speed and tactical awareness, Marshall was a key player for the Highlanders during his tenure.
  2. Richard Loe – Known for his physicality and aggressive playing style, Loe was a formidable presence in the front row for the Highlanders.
  3. Jarrad Hoeata – A versatile player capable of excelling in both the lock and flanker positions, Hoeata brought athleticism and power to the Highlanders’ forward pack.
  4. Lima Sopoaga – As a fly-half, Sopoaga demonstrated exceptional kicking skills and strategic playmaking abilities that were instrumental to the Highlanders’ success.
  5. Ben Smith – Renowned for his speed, elusiveness, and versatility across multiple positions, Smith made a significant impact as an influential figure in the Highlanders’ backline.

Coaches and management team

The Highlanders’ coaching and management team play a pivotal role in shaping the team’s success. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the club, ensuring the players are well-prepared and focused for every match.

  1. Aaron Mauger, a former All Black, took over as head coach in 2019, leading the team with his tactical acumen and deep understanding of the game.
  2. Glenn Delaney serves as the assistant coach with a keen eye for talent development and defensive strategies to bolster the team’s performance.
  3. Mark Hammett excels as the forwards coach, employing his extensive knowledge to build a dominant forward pack that sets the tone for each game.
  4. Tony Brown, an ex-All Black fly-half, brings his innovative flair to the team as attack coach, orchestrating creative plays that keep opponents guessing.
  5. Clarke Dermody spearheads the scrum coaching, leveraging his expertise to ensure strength and stability in set pieces crucial for winning matches.

Honours and Achievements

The Highlanders have won the Super Rugby title once and have consistently performed well in the competition, making them a formidable team to watch. To find out more about their achievements, check out the full blog!

Super Rugby titles

The Highlanders have won the Super Rugby title once in their history.

Records and achievements

The Highlanders have won a total of one Super Rugby title in 2015. They achieved this victory under the coaching of Jamie Joseph and captainship of Ben Smith, marking a significant milestone for the club. Here are some other remarkable records and achievements:

  1. The team holds the record for most consecutive wins against opponents – achieving an outstanding feat of ten wins in a row.
  2. In the 2020 season, they secured an impressive win – loss ratio of 75%, reflecting their consistent performance throughout the competition.
  3. Several players from the Highlanders have earned prestigious individual awards, including multiple Player of the Year and Best Forward accolades.
  4. Their home stadium, Forsyth Barr Stadium, has witnessed numerous sold-out matches, showcasing the loyal fan base and electric atmosphere created by supporters.
  5. The club’s development team has seen remarkable success at nurturing young talents, with several players progressing to represent both provincial and national teams.

Season standings and results per opposition

Building on their records and achievements, the Highlanders have engaged in fiercely contested matches throughout their history in Super Rugby. Here’s a snapshot of their season standings and results against various opposition:

SeasonTeamPlayedWonLostDrawnPoints ForPoints Against

This table reflects the competitive landscape the Highlanders face each season, with every match contributing to their legacy.

Stadiums and Development Team

The Highlanders play their home games at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, a world-class venue located in Dunedin. The club also has a well-established development team to nurture and train future talent.

Home stadium at Forsyth Barr Stadium

The Highlanders play their home matches at the renowned Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. The stadium, with a seating capacity of 30,748, provides an electrifying atmosphere for fans as they witness intense fixtures.

Its unique roof design enhances the spectator experience by trapping noise and creating an intimidating environment for opposition teams. The venue’s modern facilities and amenities ensure a comfortable viewing experience for everyone attending matches.

Forsyth Barr Stadium’s status as the Highlanders’ stronghold has solidified its place in rugby folklore. Located in close proximity to central Dunedin, it is easily accessible to supporters from all over Otago and Southland regions who turn out in droves to support their team during home fixtures.

Development team

The Highlanders also have a development team that plays in New Zealand’s domestic competition. This team serves as a breeding ground for emerging talent and provides an opportunity for young players to showcase their skills at a higher level.

The development team is crucial in nurturing future stars and ensuring the sustained success of the club.

With dedicated coaching and support staff, the development team focuses on honing the abilities of promising individuals, giving them exposure to professional standards of play. It acts as a vital pathway for aspiring players to progress through the ranks, with many eventually earning selections into the senior Highlanders squad or other prominent rugby teams.

Future of the Highlanders

The Highlanders are preparing for the Super Rugby Pacific expansion, with potential new signings and rookie debuts on the horizon. They are also focused on community involvement and growing the sport in their regions.

Super Rugby Pacific expansion

The Highlanders are preparing for the Super Rugby Pacific expansion, which will see the competition evolve with the inclusion of two new teams from the Pacific Islands. This development aims to enhance the quality and diversity of rugby in the region, providing exciting opportunities for players and fans alike.

The expansion also reflects a broader commitment to growing rugby’s reach and appeal across Oceania, fostering closer ties between established rugby nations and emerging talent from the Pacific.

In anticipation of this expansion, The Highlanders are exploring potential new signings and nurturing young talent to ensure a competitive edge in the evolving landscape of Super Rugby.

Potential new signings and rookie debuts

  1. A promising young fly – half from Southland, known for his exceptional kicking game and playmaking skills, is on the radar of the coaching staff.
  2. The Highlanders are in talks with an experienced lock forward from Australia, who brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to the team.
  3. An up-and-coming winger from Otago has been turning heads with his blistering pace and try-scoring ability, earning himself a chance to shine in the top-flight competition.
  4. The club is considering promoting a dynamic loose forward from their development team, showcasing their commitment to nurturing local talent.
  5. Discussions are underway with a seasoned prop from New Zealand, adding depth and solidity to the front row options.
  6. The Highlanders are keeping a close watch on an agile scrum – half emerging from the junior ranks, offering fresh energy and creativity in crucial positions.
  7. A highly touted centre prospect has been making waves in provincial rugby and is being considered for a breakthrough into the Super Rugby arena.

Community involvement and growing the sport

The Highlanders actively engage with their local community to grow the sport of rugby. They host various events, such as coaching clinics and school visits, to inspire the next generation of players.

Additionally, the club collaborates with local organisations and schools to promote grassroots participation in rugby, fostering a sense of belonging and passion for the sport among young enthusiasts.

Dedicated to expanding their fan base, The Highlanders actively participate in outreach programmes across Otago and Southland regions. By engaging with diverse communities and supporting local initiatives, they aim to create a more inclusive environment for all rugby fans.


In conclusion, the Highlanders Rugby Club holds a rich history and has been a powerhouse in New Zealand rugby since its formation in 1996. The team has achieved success in the Super Rugby competition and continues to produce exceptional talent year after year.

With a solid squad and passionate fan base, the Highlanders are set to be formidable contenders for years to come. As they look towards the future with potential new signings and community involvement, the Highlanders are undoubtedly an integral part of New Zealand’s rugby legacy.

Their presence on the field is sure to continue captivating fans worldwide as they strive for more victories and accolades.


1. Who are the Highlanders in rugby?

The Highlanders are a professional rugby union club team that competes in top-tier competitions.

2. Where do the Highlanders play their home games?

The Highlander’s home games are played at their stadium, which serves as their fortress during matches.

3. Have the Highlanders won any championships?

Yes, over their history, the Highlanders have clinched titles and proven to be a formidable team.

4. Can I watch a Highlander’s match live?

Absolutely! Fans can catch the thrill of Highlander’s rugby by attending live games or watching broadcasts.

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