It will certainly be a different Highlanders side lining up in the Sky Super Rugby Transtasman final against the Blues on Saturday than the side that appeared at Eden Park in March.
The Highlanders leaked five tries in the 39-17 defeat earlier in the season as the Blues slipped through tackles with ease. It proved to be a turning point in a year that hasn't exactly been straightforward as they return to Auckland with a possible title in their grasps.
Since that disappointing performance, they lost head coach Tony Brown to Japan, had to play an unexpected home game in Sydney and went from an inconsistent side in Super Rugby Aotearoa to recording five impressive straight wins over Australian franchises.
"Our defence around the first few rounds of Aotearoa just wasn't good enough, we were well down," co-captain Ash Dixon said after Friday's win over the Brumbies which less than 20 hours later booked their third ever Super Rugby finals spot.
"There was a bit of accountability thrown towards the boys. It was something we really wanted to work on and I think we've just been getting better and better. The defence really tells something about a team and we're really proud of each other. We're a bit of a team of misfits to be honest with guys from around New Zealand," Dixon added.
The Blues and Highlanders were both hot and cold throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa but turned it on against their Australian counterparts. They go into the final with the best defensive records from the five rounds of Super Rugby Transtasman, the Blues conceding just 10 tries and the Highlanders 13.
While plenty of the focus will be on the Blues looking to end a title drought at Eden Park, the 'misfits' Highlanders are also looking at a rare chance to pick up some silverware.
Their sole Super Rugby title came in 2015, also in enemy territory, in a tense 21-14 victory over the Hurricanes. Before breaking their own title drought in Wellington, the Highlanders only had one other finals appearance, a defeat to the Crusaders in 1999.
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The wait has at least been shorter as they will once again take on the underdogs tag to face the Blues.
Facing another game on the road won't bother them. They recorded away victories against Super Rugby Transtasman finalists the Crusaders and Chiefs before wins over the Force, Rebels and Brumbies all coming across the Tasman.
The Highlanders had the extra day rest after beating the Brumbies on Friday night but the little advantage that could be was probably nullified by the fact they endured a three hour bus trip from Canberra to Sydney before making the flight back to New Zealand before beginning preparation for the Saturday's final.
The Blues ran riot at times and scored their five tries in the March 14 clash with relative ease - from mauls, out wide and through the middle. It looked like a long season lay head for the Southerners but they hit back in an up-and-down Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with impressive wins over the Crusaders in Christchurch and then a home victory over the Blues.
Possibly the only team they would have feared in the final was the Hurricanes, who beat the Highlanders twice in Super Rugby Aotearoa. They rattled off an impressive Transtasman campaign, which included an unexpected trip to Sydney to pip the Crusaders for a finals spot.
"Going five from five through the competition after going through Aotearoa and not string two wins together, we're absolutely stoked with that," Dixon said.