Strange competition but Highlanders make another final

The Highlanders are in the Super Rugby transtasman final after the Crusaders fell short against...
The Highlanders are in the Super Rugby transtasman final after the Crusaders fell short against the Rebels. Photo: Getty Images
For once, the Crusaders did not break Highlanders fans’ hearts.

And it was a close-run thing, because this one had heartbreak written all over it.

Leicester Fainga’anuku had grounded the ball over the tryline on Saturday night with just minutes left.

It was a try that would give the Crusaders a conversion to beat the Rebels by the 33 points they needed to surpass the Highlanders.

But on review, the try was ruled out, the winger being pulled up for a double movement. And with that, the Highlanders clinched a spot in the final.

Well, in a final at least.

It is hard to know what to make of it.

Is Saturday’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Blues in Auckland the final?

Or was the real final the Super Rugby Aotearoa one that the Crusaders won in May?

It is a strange situation, and the Trans-Tasman competition — dominated by the New Zealand teams with embarrassing ease — really is a weird format.

But in all honesty, who cares?

The Highlanders are playing in a final for just the third time in their history.

Who would have predicted that four months, or even four weeks, ago?

On paper, they did not look like a team set to challenge the likes of the Crusaders and the Blues.

They have had to deal with an injury-cursed year, a head coach leaving for Japan and a handful of off-field dramas.

But they claimed several scalps in the Aotearoa competition and went unbeaten through the Trans-Tasman season.

The Highlanders completed that run with a 33-12 win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night, a fantastic result to take into the decider.

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