Highlanders Adidas Super Rugby 2016 Home Shirt

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The Highlanders surprised pretty much everyone in 2015. With just five playoff appearances in 18 seasons, and despite only qualifying for the playoffs as one of the best runners up, the men from Otago took the hard road to their first Super Rugby final, and then managed to get one over the much-fancied razzle dazzle Hurricanes to win their first ever title. 

Now, we’re not saying that the Highlanders first playoff appearances in more than a decade, not to mention winning the whole damn thing, was entirely down to the fact that the Dunedin franchise were wearing one of the most elegantly gorgeous shirts in recent seasons for the last two seasons, but, well… it can’t have hurt, can it?

One of the best things about that stunning Highlanders 2014/15 shirt was the subtle yet striking way that it paid homage to the Celtic (specifically Scottish) heritage of the Otago and Southland regions, and the 2016 jersey continues this trend. Gone are the subtle Celtic band motifs, replaced with a tartan-esque pattern that swathes across the front of the design.

Tartan, is of course, none more Scottish, and the way that the motif flows across the shirt is also reminiscent of the tartan cloak of a Highland warrior billowing in the breeze (actually, it’s Scotland, let’s be honest here, it’s going to be blowing a frigging gale) – something that’s of course been featured in the Highlanders’ logo since the franchise’s inception.

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It’s not quite as subtle, nor as intricate as the Celtic band hoops of last season, but we still think it looks very, very cool indeed. It’s probably the most subtle motif of any of the New Zealand Super Rugby shirts we’ve seen this year, and one that adds some welcome interest to what would have been quite plain jersey otherwise.

Not that there would have been anything wrong with that, of course – we’ve said before that the Highlanders’ blend of dark blue, yellow and maroon (reflecting the unions of Otago, North Otago and Southland respectively) is one of the most underrated and pleasing blends around, and we’re glad to see Southland given a little bit more prominence this year – the maroon collar and placket really compliments the design nicely.

There’s no getting away from it – we don’t quite love this year’s Highlanders shirt as much as the 2014/15 version… but frankly that’s one of our favourite jersey designs in recent years and has had pride of place in our personal collection for some time. This however, is still a damn cool shirt, and another really cool, unique design for a New Zealand Super Rugby team. Awesome.

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8 comments

  1. This may be my favorite of the NZ lot. I love the subtle maroon collar. With a pair of jeans and a frothy pint in hand, this jersey would resonate.

    • Agree that its my favourite too, however, this is my favourite NZ team (I’m not a Kiwi). Not sure if I’m using the right words, however, the shirt looks ‘ultra modern’, almost metallic, though that could just be the way it was photographed.

      • Nah, I saw it in the shop yesterday and it is quite steely looking.
        Interestingly, the ones in the shop had no front sponsor, but in this case I almost prefer the version with the sponsor’s logo. Unlike the horribly disruptive Blues’ NIB logo, this one actually adds to the shirt.

  2. Today’s rugby shirts don’t even look like rugby shirts. Okay, I get the new fabrics, though I certainly prefer the old cotton and cotton/poly blends (I have them, and thank God some manufacturers are still making them, because I referee in them). Polyester shirts suck, as in they make you hot and sweaty and itchy, because they don’t breathe (despite the adverts that they do), they stink (I know as a ref when I have to set a scrum), and they look ugly. It was bad enough as a player back some decades that two clubs I played for had those God-awful Halbro acrylic shirts. Talk about sweating and itching skin! Perhaps rugby will figure it out and go the way American baseball did after its era of ugly in the 70’s and 80’s. They went back to traditional looking uniforms. And doesn’t it get cold in NZ in the winter, especially in the South Island? So what’s with the short sleeves? And I can’t think of anything as stupid as wearing a long sleeve under shirt under a short sleeve one. Why not wear one shirt with long sleeves? And it can get cold in California’s Bay Area where I live and referee. I remember those old heavier-weight shirts came in handy on some cold days in December and January, with cold rain or just plain overcast, no sun days.
    Seems that these new-fangled pollyester shirts did offer long sleeves some five or six years ago. Bryan Habana wore one in the ’07 RWC. Some Welsh players had them in the mid-2000’s.

    • Right Larry, where to start! First up, modern shirts aren’t made of cotton because as comfortable as it is, it’s not very strong, it stretches, it doesn’t breathe very well and it retains water like a bastard. Modern polyester shirts might make you a bit sweaty, but that’s because they’re designed to wick moisture away from the skin onto the shirt where it quickly evaporates – if you aren’t wearing it skin-tight as intended, the moisture can’t wick onto the jersey as effectively. Also, check out our review of the recent Lions 1959 Commemorative Shirt to see the state of an old cotton jersey after a test match – the stretches, the tears and holes… that’s not really good enough!

      The reason that sleeves disappeared, along with old-school collars, and the reason modern jerseys are skin-tight, is that it’s been pretty conclusively proven that the less material you have for an opponent to grab onto, the harder you are to tackle. The other reason is preference – the vast majority of players prefer to have short sleeves, and those that don’t will wear a compression undershirt instead (including the aforementioned Mr Habana nowadays).

      It might seem silly to you, but a compression garment will do a better job of keeping the muscles warm and the blood circulating than a long-sleeved jersey would as it’s tighter to the skin. As a result, compression gear is also very hard to grab hold of if you’re wearing sleeves, but it’s not as tough as a proper shirt, so couldn’t be used for the whole thing (look how the lycra super skin tight Nike shirts of the 2003 era ripped quite easily).

      Making a modern rugby shirt is one of the most challenging tasks in modern sports apparel design, because it has to be lightweight and breathable, but also incredibly hard-wearing, due to the way a shirt gets pulled and twisted, stamped on, and generally abused for 80 minutes – no other sports jersey takes the amount of punishment that a rugby shirt does!

      As for the tradition thing – well, they’ll never go back to loose-fitting, long-sleeved cotton designs, but everything else is down to taste. Different clubs and manufacturers favour modern or retro looks (check out the recent Argentina 50th Anniversary shirt for the most striking example of the latter) – which you prefer is very much subjective, and quite often is down to age, but we try to appreciate them all on their own merits!

      • Change is good Larry. When I want to go back, I put on one of my old playing jerseys. Then I wonder why the hell I am wearing it – as it looks drab and war torn. I like the new look and some of the new jerseys actually have long sleeve versions. I recognize this is a subjective discussion and you did bring out some points that resonated in the old boy within me.

      • Great reply. Couldn’t agree enough with you. As much as I loved the older Rugby jerseys I have no problem with the newer ones especially if they’re more comfortable towards players or suited towards certain weather types more than the older ones.

  3. Fantastic reply. You should include some of that in a main post somewhere as most of us have likely never thought of why it is that jerseys are as they are nowadays.

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