||It goes into touch as the siren goes and the Highlanders have held on to secure the Super Rugby title in Wellington. It was a great final between two teams who came to play, the Hurricanes will be aggrieved but they can be proud of what they achieved this season.|
||Highlanders with a scrum in their own half and they have slowed it right down as the forwards bash away as the seconds tick down.|
||Banks back in the pocket again and he has to step again. Highlanders keep it and this time Banks slots the drop goal to stretch the lead to 21-14.|
||Highlanders go through phases and Nonu shoots up so Buckman surges into the 22. Marty Banks goes back for the drop goal but then steps and gets a pass away inside to Geldenhuys but he is stopped inches short by Savea. Hurricanes somehow turn it over and clear.|
||Aaron Smith stabs a grubber deep into the 22. Barrett claims it and Conrad Smith clears eventually. Highlanders on the attack now as the minutes tick away.|
||Hurricanes maul but the Highlanders do not engage and put them offside. Very clever and they can clear the pressure.Sloppy ball at the line-out but they get it back and Aaron Smith hoists. Proctor drops it so the Highlanders have a scrum in Hurricanes territory.|
||Canes go blind to Thompson who makes it into the 22, but the Highlanders turn it over and Aaron Smith clears. Barrett slings it out to Nonu who chips ahead and Osborne is bundled into touch as he collects so Hurricanes have a line-out in the 22 with the game in the balance.|
||Aaron Smith breaks up the middle and puts a chip kick ahead but it rolls too far and goes dead. Hurricanes go to Nonu and Perenara breaks up the left.|
||The ball is lost forward so the Highlanders have a scrum just outside the 22. Sopoaga's clearance is charged down by Perenara. The Highlanders play it on the ground in front of the poles so Barrett slots another penalty to make it 18-14.|
||Aaron Smith with a great touch-finder and the Hurricanes come again from halfway with Barrett taking it to the line. They go wide to Shields and work their way to the 22.|
||They go on the blindside to Milner-Skudder but he is forced into touch. The ball goes over the back and the Hurricanes claim it. They charge into the 22 and it is sent out to Savea who drops the ball with the tryline at his mercy. Huge moment in the game.|
||Broadhurst bursts down the touchline but his pass inside is intercepted. Ben Smith gets a bouncing pass and knocks on so the Hurricanes have a scrum.|
||The Highlanders charge into opposition territory and Toomaga-Allen goes offside at a ruck so Sopoaga has a shot at goal but pulls it wide.|
||The Highlanders go off their feet after the line-out, so Barrett has a shot at goal and splits the upright to cut the deficit to 18-11.|
||Highlanders come again but it is lost forward so the Hurricanes have a scrum. It goes out to Nonu who finds touch in the 22.|
||Sopoaga hits the upright with his conversion attempt but the Highlanders have their tails up now. Naholo grabs a Sopoaga grubber and puts a kick of his own into touch in the 22.|
||Hurricanes run from their own half again but then hold on too long under pressure from Naholo. Highlanders turn to attack and Sopoaga gets over the 22. There is good support as they go close then send it wide to Osborne who is brought down just short. They go the other way and Dixon gets the pass away to Naholo who finishes in the corner.|
||The Highlanders go offside at a maul and Barrett takes aim at the poles. He slots it this time to cut the Highlanders lead to 13-8.|
||Marshall gets the second half underway. Both teams made a change in the forwards at the break. Christie on for Lentjies and Eves on for Goodes.|
||Sopoaga slots the conversion and that gives the Highlanders a crucial 13-5 lead at the half-time break. Great final so far between two teams who are looking to run the ball. Join us in ten minutes for the second half.|
||Highlanders win a turnover from some good work at the breakdown from Osborne. They break down the left and are forced into touch in the 22. Highlanders steal the line-out and charge into the 22. Aaron Smith fires a great pass out to Dixon who is in space out wide. He steps inside and powers his way towards the line. He gets it down on the line but might have lost control at the last second. The TMO awards the try and that is a huge blow just before half-time.|
||Vito takes it off the back and gives it to Savea. They slip it out to Nonu on the blindside and he goes over in the corner. This is going upstairs and the TMO awards the try, no problem with the grounding.|
||Hurricanes steal the line-out and they are right on the tryline again. Ball is not coming out so the Hurricanes have a scrum. Great defence from the Highlanders.|
||It goes to Buckman who maes good ground before Sopoaga clears into touch. Hurricanes take it quickly and Perenara bursts down the touchline into the 22 but he is crunched into touch by Ben Smith.|
||Hurricanes make it up to the 22 but the Highlanders turn it over and clear. Hurricanes run it back again and Marshall does well. Nonu is there in support and Hurricanes are on the front foot again. Conrad Smith makes it into the 22 but it is lost forward at a ruck so the Highlanders have a defensive scrum.|
||Hurricanes run it from deep in their own half again and work their way up to halfway but then hold on too long on the ground. Sopoaga slots another penalty and the Highlanders lead 6-0.|
||Hurricanes secure it and keep it in the forwards. Highlanders too a player out in the air at the line-out so Barrett has another shot at goal but pushes it wide again.|
||Perenara kicks high and Osborne runs it back. Ben Smith kicks and Barrett runs. Highlanders do not release so the Hurricanes can clear.|
||Hurricanes sling some long passes out in their own territory and Buckman rushes up to claim the ball. It goes back to Sopoaga who puts a drop-goal wide. Hurricanes take the restart quickly and win it back. Teams exchange kicks and Hurricanes have a line-out near halfway.|
||Highlanders steal the line-out and roll over the 22 but the Hurricanes turn it over again. They run from deep in their own half and it is lost forward so the Highlanders are on the attack again. Ben Smith finds some space out wide and is brought down in front of the poles but it is turned over again and Perenara clears.|
||Reggie Goodes blown up for going down so that is an opportunity lost for the Hurricanes as Highlanders clear. The Hurricanes win it at the line-out and run it from their own half. The Highlanders turn it over in the tackle and spin it wide. It goes to Naholo and he is forced into touch.|
||It goes to Milner-Skudder who is stopped just short then Barrett goes close. They are over the line and it is held up but the Highlanders were offside. Aaron Smith gets a warning from the referee and Hurricanes call for another scrum.|
||Ball comes off the top and goes to Conrad Smith in midfield. Hurricanes on the 22 now with Broadhurst making ground. Aaron Smith steals it but then a wild pass puts Sopoaga under pressure and he is forced over his tryline so the Hurricanes have a 5m scrum.|
||Hurricanes run it back and Perenara makes it over halfway. They go deep and Milner-Skudder attacks the line. Manu goes off his feet at the breakdown so Barrett sets up a line-out in Highlanders territory.|
||Hurricanes win a line-out and the Highlanders go offside so Barrett has a chance to level the score but he pulls it wide.|
||Coltman turns it over on the ground and the Highlanders come again. Osborne is forced into touch but the Canes held on too long in the tackle so Sopoaga has an early shot at goal from 40m out and he slots it to give the Highlanders a 3-0 lead.|
||Sopoaga kick off and the Canes find an early touch. Highlanders go wide to Naholo before Ben Smith stabs a grubber through.|
||Both teams will say goodbye to some stars tonight, with Hurricanes legends Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu playing their last Super Rugby games and Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu also saying farewell.|
||Ardie Savea is not fit to play so Callum Gibbins will start at openside flank for the Hurricanes in what is the only change from either side from the teams that played in the semifinals.|
||Welcome to live commentary of the Super Rugby Final between the Hurricanes and the Highlanders in Wellington. Neither side have ever won the title, but have both had their best season ever to deservedly contest this match. The Hurricanes topped the standings and will be favourites at home, but the Highlanders certainly have what it takes to win as well.|
The Hurricanes versus Highlanders Super Rugby Final "is going to be brutal" and could damage New Zealand's World Cup strength.
The Hurricanes versus Highlanders Super Rugby Final on Saturday "is going to be brutal" and could damage New Zealand's World Cup strength, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
But he admits he wouldn't have it any other way with Southern Hemisphere supremacy at stake.
The Hurricanes, with 12 current All Blacks in their squad, compared to five with the Highlanders, have been installed as favourites by the pragmatists for the sold-out game in Wellington.
Romantics, however, are backing the Highlanders who field a band of nobodies with a never-say-die attitude.
In what will be an emotional encounter - neither side has previously won the title - several senior players, including Hurricanes figureheads Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu, will be playing their last Super Rugby match.
"It's going to be a real brutal game," said Hansen, whose finals' experience as assistant coach of the seven-time champion Crusaders in 2000 fuels his trepidation about the risk of injury to key All Blacks ahead of the World Cup beginning in September.
"Whilst I'm excited about it being two New Zealand teams, there is a little bit of holding your breath because you don't want any of those young men to get injured - or anyone for that matter - but not the 17 because they are earmarked to come in and play some of these Test matches that we've got to play before we go to the World Cup.
"But watching the two teams play, it's going to be brutal.
"There's no way you can expect anyone to hold back. You can't. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both teams. The emotion of it will play a big part."
The last two teams standing were the best-performing attacking sides in the regular season with the Hurricanes heading the try-scoring list with 62, one more than the Highlanders.
But championships are often won on defence where the 'Canes were second best to the Brumbies side in the regular season, but the Highlanders had the worst defensive record of the top six qualifiers.
The Highlanders have since conceded only three tries as they outsmarted the Chiefs and Waratahs in the play-offs.
Defence coach Scott McLeod said they had a "big day" on Tuesday working on a strategy to counter the Hurricanes.
"They've got threats across the park. You give them too much space and they will make the most of that with their running, offloading and continuity play. So we need to be able to shut that all down," said McLeod.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of Ardie Savea, a central figure in their attacking drive, who is suffering from a leg injury and has been bracketed with Callum Gibbins for the No.7 jersey.
The winner will be the eighth franchise to wear the Super Rugby crown since the game turned professional 20 year ago in 1996 and the fourth from New Zealand - following the Crusaders (seven championships), the Blues (three) and Chiefs (two).
Three Australian sides have claimed the title - the Brumbies (two), the Waratahs (one) and Reds (one).
The Bulls (three) are the only winners from South Africa in the professional era.
Queensland (twice - 1994 and 1995) and Transvaal (once - 1993) were Super Rugby winners in the amateur era.
Players to watch:
For the Hurricanes: Before kick-off all eyes will be on Ardie Savea, to see if he passes a late fitness test. However, once the match is underway you have a team full of quality players - most notably backline stars like Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara. Victor Vito's running skills, the hard work of Brad Shields, as well as the lock partnership of James Broadhurst and Jeremy Thrush are key forwards.
For the Highlanders: You start with the Smiths - Ben and Aaron - for their silky skills. Then you will look to see how hard-running wing Waisake Naholo and Patrick Osborne cope with the occasion. Lima Sopoaga will be another key back. Nasi Manu's strength, Elliot Dixon's workrate, Mark Reddish's muscle and Liam Coltman's all-action game will add further value to the visitors.
Head to head: There will be All Black versus All Black battles all over the park. But the most interesting of these will be in midfield - the experience of Conrad Smith (Hurricanes) versus the guile of Malakai Fekitoa. Julian Savea (Hurricanes left wing) and Waisake Naholo (Highlanders right wing) will be like two runaway trains on a collision course. At scrumhalf there's another big duel - TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) versus Aaron Smith (Highlanders). Victor Vito (Hurricanes) and Nasi Manu Highlanders) are two big ball-carrying No.8s, while the second row showdown between James Broadhurst (Hurricanes) and Mark Reddish (Highlanders) will also be an intriguing encounter.
2015: Hurricanes won 56-20, Wellington
2015: Hurricanes won 20-13, Dunedin
2014: Highlanders won 18-16, Wellington
2014: Highlanders won 35-31, Dunedin
2013: Highlanders won 49-44, Wellington
2013: Hurricanes won 23-19, Dunedin
2012: Hurricanes won 26-20, Dunedin
2012: Highlanders won 19-17, Wellington
2011: Highlanders won 13-6, Invercargill
2011: Highlanders won 14-9, Wellington
Road to the Final:
Prediction: The Hurricanes have won two in a row against the Highlanders, with their most recent meeting in June representing their largest ever win against the men from Dunedin (56-20). The Highlanders have been victorious in each of their last four trips to Wellington (that June clash was played in Napier). Before the Highlanders were humbled 56-20 by the 'Canes in Round 17, each of the previous 13 meetings between these sides were settled by seven or fewer points. Since losing to the Highlanders in Round 14 of the 2014 season, the Hurricanes have won 10 of 11 home games. None of the Highlanders' last seven games have been settled by single figure margins. Both these sides lost their sole appearances in the Super Rugby Final; both at the hands of the Crusaders. Just four sides have averaged fewer carries than the Highlanders this season (96.2). The Hurricanes have made the most per game (126.1). The Highlanders have averaged the second most kicks from hand this season (25.4), the Canes the third least (18.2). The Highlanders have averaged 136 tackle attempts per game this year, the fourth highest figure of its kind. The Hurricanes have averaged 142, the second highest total. The Hurricanes' line-out success rate (81 percent) is the 13th best figure in the competition, while the Highlanders' (89 percent) is the third best. Waisake Naholo leads the try-scoring charts this year with 12 touchdowns including three in his last two appearances. TJ Perenara is the only other player to hit double figures for tries this year with 11. The Hurricanes have scored the most (19) and conceded the joint fewest (seven) tries in the final quarter of matches. The Highlanders lead the way for tries in the second (20) and third quarters (20). Yes, it will be brutal, but also very entertaining. The Hurricanes to edge the Highlanders in a high-scoring affair - by seven or less.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea/Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Callum Gibbins/Mark Abbott, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Matt Proctor.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Shane Christie, 22 Fumiaki Tanaka, 23 Marty Banks.
Date: Saturday, July 4
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Weather: Friday's rain will make way for some sun and cloudy periods. The winds to turn northwest. High of 13°C and low of 7°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Compiled by Jan de Koning, with additional reporting from Agence France-Presse
Statistical information provided by Opta Sports
The Highlanders held out to beat the Hurricanes 21-14 in Wellington to claim their first Super Rugby title.