Highlanders: Super Rugby Champions on and off the field

What's in the Auckland water? Have the oval ball teams ever been in a worse state?

The Vodafone Warriors lurch from crisis to crisis and the New Zealand Rugby Union, in an effort to breath life back into Auckland rugby, have today launched a 5 year plan.

The Auckland franchises would do well to charter an Air NZ flight and sneak into Dunedin under the cover of darkness and learn some new moves.

In 2012 and facing a debt of $2.35 million, the Otago Rugby Football Union was on the brink of liquidation. However, a last minute bailout by the Dunedin City Council, with assistance from the NZRU, saved the 131 year old union.

Four years later the ORFU has the best stadium in the country. It hosts sell-out Super Rugby games and is home to the Highlanders, the reigning Super Rugby Champions and most loved rugby brand in the land.

Finding success in the midst of the most dire situation is nothing new for the Mainlanders. Mining for gold is in their DNA.

Take team naming for example. Usually it's announced through mainstream media. Not for the Highlanders; local primary school kids are given the honour of reading out the names.

After the 2015 maiden rugby championship, the team put out a video thanking the fans. It features players hitch-hiking, mooning drivers, running relay races with students, tug-of-wars and all done to the soundtrack of one of NZ's most popular songs, which has now become synonymous with this team.

In the lead up to Friday nights' rematch of last year's Super Rugby Final Facebook fan, Walter Jenks, sums up how much the fans believe in the Highlanders' brand.

Proven and hardened team - imbued with southern pride, strength in all positions and evincing an air of invincibility. If I were a Hurricane I'd stay in for the evening and find something to watch on Al Jazeera. 

Success on the field starts with what they do when they’re off it. The Highlanders have built a brand with a cult following because of how they engage with the local community and through the videos they share online.