Southern defensive pride and planned attacking chaos were at the heart of the Highlanders’ unexpected Super Rugby triumph.
The southerners had been written off by most all season but co-captain Ben Smith says it only served to fuel their desire ahead of Saturday’s 21-14 final victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington.
All Blacks fullback Smith says his team relished the fact pundits couldn’t grasp what the players all knew.
“Right from the start we had something special,” he said.
“Along the way, some other people started to believe.
“I just think we’ve created something special this year and I’ve just enjoyed being part of it really.”
Like many teams before them, the Hurricanes were knocked off their rhythm by the Highlanders’ grind `em down methods.
They played without the ball for long periods, kicking away ample possession, but were more decisive when points were on offer.
Smith struggled to explain how his team have been so effective.
“At times I think it’s planned chaos.
“We know where the opportunities are going to come because the coaching staff have put in a lot of work during the week.
“We talk about brotherhood and all being really good mates and doing the job for each other.”
Coach Jamie Joseph was proud of how his team held firm when the home crowd began chants of “Jerry Jerry” midway through the second half.
The call was in honour of former Hurricanes and All Blacks flanker Jerry Collins, who died in a car crash in France last month.
“There was a lot of emotional reasons for the Hurricanes to win the match but in our mind, we had just as many,” Joseph said.
“We were hungry and confident we could get it done.”