Ahead of their final regular season match, the focus for the Highlanders is to strike a perfect balance.

They're guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and there was no chance they'd host a quarter-final. So when they named their squad on Thursday with a host of stars missing, you'd be hard pressed to find someone surprised by it.

They can't move up the ladder, but coach Aaron Mauger reinforced the importance of this game to his squad and how a good performance can set the tone in their bid to claim the Super Rugby title.

"We know we're going to be on the road now, so (we're) making sure the bulk of our team that are probably going to start next week are fresh and ready to attack that challenge as we move into playoff footy," Mauger told Radio Sport.


"First things first, we've got to really attack this game against the Rebels and build some momentum from a good performance into the finals. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we're mindful of what we need to do and how we need to prepare for finals footy."

The Highlanders will be without All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock for Saturday's match at Forsyth Barr Stadium, while loose forward Elliot Dixon, hooker Ash Dixon and midfielder Rob Thompson have also been rested.

Guaranteed to be heading on the road next week, likely to either be against the Lions in South Africa or Waratahs in Australia, the Highlanders will have to go the hard way in the hunt for the title.

There is also a slim chance the Highlanders meet the Crusaders in Christchurch in their opening playoff game. Should the Rebels take a bonus point win over the Highlanders and the Jaguares beat the Sharks, the Highlanders would finish eighth.

And with two of the side's three first-choice loose forwards sitting out the match, they'll be running the trio of Shannon Frizell, James Lentjes and Liam Squire. They might not be a familiar trio in the pack for fans, but they're up to the task, Mauger said.

"We've got a real luxury in the loose forwards department…it's probably as good as any around the competition."

The Rebels will be looking to secure a quarter-final spot for the first time in the club's history when they take the field in Dunedin on Saturday. A win would secure their spot, while a loss would leave them needing the Jaguares to beat the Sharks and the Brumbies not to get a big win over the Waratahs.