Sport: Semifinal time!

• Ranking . . .

One thing is certain ahead of tonight's Super rugby semifinal in Sydney and (fingers crossed) the final in Dunedin or Wellington.

These Highlanders have the opportunity to complete the best season in franchise history.

The 1998 and 1999 teams were brilliant, and obviously the 1999 team that hosted the final can lay claim to being THE best Highlanders team of all.

But Jamie Joseph's men stand on the cusp of something quite special.

I've been thinking about which players from the 2015 season would make an all-time Highlanders team - that sort of thing is often a nice gauge of where a team sits.

I named my all-time Highlanders team, and asked rugby writer Steve Hepburn to do the same thing.

. . . these Highlanders

Meikle's team (six current players out of 23): Ben Smith, Jeff Wilson, Malakai Fekitoa, John Leslie, Waisake Naholo, Tony Brown, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Josh Kronfeld, Adam Thomson, Tom Donnelly, Simon Maling, Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver, Carl Hoeft. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Kees Meeuws, Jamie Mackintosh, James Ryan, Taine Randell, Byron Kelleher, Nick Evans, Pita Alatini.

Hepburn's team (four current players out of 23): Ben Smith, Jeff Wilson, Malakai Fekitoa, Pita Alatini, Waisake Naholo, Tony Brown, Aaron Smith, Taine Randell, Josh Kronfeld, Adam Thomson, Simon Maling, James Ryan, Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver, Carl Hoeft. Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Kees Meeuws, Chris King, Filipo Levi, Josh Blackie, Byron Kelleher, Nick Evans, Brendan Laney.

Fire me an email with your all-time Highlanders team.

Best of the rest

Just five Highlanders - all backs - in the biggest All Black squad in history?Five Blues?THIRTEEN Crusaders?Que?That seems wrong on quite a few levels. We've all talked about the Highlanders pack being full of journeymen and no-names, but there are some players in there who would not disgrace the black jersey.

And FORTY-ONE players in the squad. Yeesh. Normally, you can pick a reasonably decent reserve All Black team consisting of players who didn't make the cut. Can you do that this time?

Damian McKenzie, Tim Nanai-Williams, George Moala, Shaun Treeby, James Lowe, Ihaia West, Brad Weber, Brad Shields, John Hardie, Elliot Dixon, Michael Fitzgerald, Dominic Bird, Ben Tameifuna, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds.

Moala and Weber are included because they were only whistled into the training squad this week.

Wouldn't win the World Cup, no. But not the worst team.

Home sweet home

Fans, coaches, general managers and scientists have pondered the myths and realities of home advantage in sport over the years.

The Guardian reports a new study, led by Brian Cunniffe, a sports scientist with the Lions on the 2013 tour Australia, indicates stress levels are ''lower and less variable'' across players in a home team.

His researchers tracked a top Welsh rugby team over home-and-away games against two different teams.

They took saliva samples from players and questioned them about sleep habits and confidence levels, and analysed testosterone and cortisol levels.

The results were clear: cortisol - a stress hormone - was higher when teams played away, and more variable among the players.

''If you do become stressed, that does have physiological repercussions down the line,'' Cunniffe said.

''If cortisol levels vary wildly within a team, it can affect their tactical cohesion and game plan.''

On the day the Welsh players' stress hormones were at their highest pre-game levels, the team was thumped by 33 points.

 My boy Jordy

Jordan Spiiieeettthhhhh. The future of golf is here.

Name of the week

Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen. Why oh why does South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen not use his magnificent full name more often?

The first quote

''It was strange. I was used to a football and picking up this ball that was oval was weird. I started to kick it, but then the coaches explained the rules.''

- Claudio Souza, a 15-year-old from the slums of Rio de Janeiro, gets a taste of rugby as part of a push to promote the sport ahead of the debut of sevens at the Olympic Games.

The second quote

''It's something about the beard just brings out the animal, the beast inside. You feel like you're unstoppable.''

- Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez is believed to be the first athlete to get his beard sponsored. The hirsute baseballer has cut a deal with grooming tool manufacturer Wahl.

Triumph

The Clutch is delighted to see common sense has prevailed and the Tactix netball team is not going to be allowed a second import in future seasons.

It was a smart move in the wake of the earthquakes - everyone in the city, even its netball team, deserved a leg up - but it is time for the franchise to stand on its own two feet.

Disaster

Another league player pulling out of another contract. Hard to place all the blame on Kieran Foran for this one, given the Eels basically messed up the whole business. But the NRL really needs to tighten this area up.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz

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