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The side went down 34-22 to the Stormers in Cape Town yesterday and was chasing the match for most of the 80 minutes.
There was plenty of vigour and aggression from both sides but also plenty of errors.
The Highlanders were down 17-3 at halftime and though they scored first in the second half - through a try from Sio Tomkinson after a nice drive from the forwards - the side from the south could not get any dominance for any length of time.
The Highlanders gave the ball away too often and their handling needed to be better.
If anything this game was a summary of the Highlanders' season: plenty of effort but not enough accuracy. Some good stuff at times and the forwards drove hard. But tries went begging and there was too many sloppy mistakes.
Exits from their own territory were not good enough and the side is plagued by not being able to keep any pressure on. The number of times the side has conceded a score just after getting points itself has been significantly higher than Simon Bridges' leadership victories.
The Highlanders were not helped by losing fullback Matt Faddes to a yellow card in the first half for an ugly tackle which had Stormers midfield back Damian de Allande landing on his back.
When Faddes was off the field, Stormers captain Siya Kolisi found a massive gap in the Highlanders backline defence to slice through and score.
The Stormers were aggressive at the breakdown but went off their feet numerous times to slow the Highlanders' ball down and referee Nic Berry just turned a blind eye.
There was plenty of kicking and, as in many games played this season, a lot of it was inaccurate.
The first try of the match came from halfback Herschel Jantjies, finishing a nice break after some soft defence by the Highlanders close to the ruck.
The Highlanders had a chance after just 10 minutes when Waisake Naholo ran 50m to just before the tryline but his pass to No8 Elliot Dixon - which was not easy - was dropped and the opportunity went begging.
The visiting side tried hard in the second half but once Jean-Luc de Plessis scored the fourth try for the Stormers the game was over.
Best for the Highlanders were halfback Aaron Smith, who is displaying some good form, locks Tom Franklin and Pari Pari Parkinson, while out the back winger Jordan Hyland and midfielder Sio Tomkinson put in solid shifts.
Winger Waisake Naholo made a promising return and scored his first try of the season.