A very special alliance was forged in 1995 between the three provincial rugby unions south of the Waitaki River in order to do battle in the new Super 12 competition. This alliance became known as the Otago Highlanders and in 2000, the word "Otago" was dropped, fully acknowledging the power of three.
The earliest settlers in this southern area were Maori - the tribes of Kai Tahu and Waitaha. But it was to the predominantly Scottish settlers who came south that the Highlanders name and colours owed their origin. These early settlers arrived in ships such as the Philip Laing and the John Wickliffe,carrying family names such as Cargill and Macandrew and Burns. They founded Dunedin, which was the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh. So close was the resemblance between the new home and the old that Dunedin soon became known as the Edinburgh of the South.
The Scottish heritage is there for all to see in Oamaru, Dunedin and Invercargill; in the architecture and in the street names; and in the statue of Robbie Burns in the Octagon in Dunedin.
But, there is more to the name Highlander than heritage, tradition and living history.
The name and image of the Highlander conjures up visions of fierce independence, pride in one's roots, loyalty, strength, kinship, honesty, and hard work. Highlanders are traditionally conservative and shaped by enduring values, balanced by action, flare, and imagination. There is a unity borne from adversity; Highlanders work hard and play hard—a tight-knit bunch not to be challenged lightly!
The Highlanders insignia represents a strong and proud warrior battling on the craggy highlands of Scotland. He stands with his arms raised in defiance, in a rampant stance, proud and strong, ready for any challenge that should come his way. In one hand he brandishes a claymore; in the other hand a shield—attack and defence in perfect balance. Modern-day Highlanders play their rugby the same way—ferocious in attack, tenacious in defence.
The colours of the emblem and jersey have direct links to the three provinces that make up the Highlanders franchise: gold for North Otago; blue for Otago; maroon for Southland. Our three unions have come together to form this strong southern alliance under the banner of “United We Stand.”Come rain, hail or shine our vocal supporters will be there, wanting us to win, willing us to win. When you pull on the Highlanders jersey, whether as a player orsupporter you represent yourself, your mates, your region, all those who have worn the jersey before you, and all those who will proudly wear the jersey after you.