28 Jun 2015

Highlanders underdogs for final

1:51 pm on 28 June 2015

The Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says his team have fooled the rugby community by reaching the Super Rugby final for which he's reserved underdog status for his side.

The Otago-based franchise powered their way into next weekend's Super Rugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington with a five-tries-to-one 35-17 upset of the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.

Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon and Malakai Fekitoa.

Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon and Malakai Fekitoa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The New South Welshmen had 13 internationals in their run-on team compared to the Highlanders' three and Michael Cheika's hard-nosed Sydneysiders were expected by many to remain on track for back-to-back titles.

Eighty-minutes after the Highlanders' pack, who have no internationals, played their Test-laden counterparts off the park, it was deja vu for Joseph.

"You can't say the same story every week," said the Highlanders coach whose side came into match after beating the star-studded Chiefs.

"It's surprising for me ... in many ways it feels like we've fooled the rugby community ... they still don't believe - what else can these guys do."

Joseph's team will enter Saturday's final as underdogs, something the Highlanders coach was quick to ram home.

"The Hurricanes are stacked with All Blacks. They are in form, they've only lost a couple of games," he said.

"It's a big task and we've got to play up there as well, it's as big a task as this one was tonight."

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Joseph paid special tribute to his pack after the Dunedin-based side stunned the Waratahs.

"They aren't All Blacks, they aren't Wallabies, they aren't Springboks but they are very good rugby players," the former New Zealand flanker told reporters.

"And I guess you can see that we've created a very good team. Yeah, we've got a very good backline but I think in the last three or four games the pack's really stood up and at crucial times of the season they've done that."

It will be a second final for the Highlanders and ensures a first-time champion for Super Rugby but Joseph felt his team would still be very much the underdogs.