Wellington - The Highlanders face a self-imposed alcohol ban as they seek to make the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time since 2003, captain Jamie Mackintosh said on Thursday.
Mackintosh said the team, one of the surprise packages of this year's competition, did not want to repeat the mistakes of last season, when they made a bright start but faded and failed to make the finals.
He said the Highlanders, who had a bye last week, agreed to stay away from alcohol over the next four weeks as their campaign enters a crunch period.
"We just decided as a team during the bye week that the next four weeks were going to be pretty big for us, with the Blues at home, the Cheetahs and Sharks and then the Hurricanes," Mackintosh told Fairfax Media.
"Last year we came back from the bye and dropped games and we didn't want to have any excuses there. The team and management got together and decided."
He said abstaining would be a sacrifice for the New Zealanders but the lure of securing a playoff spot made it worthwhile.
"When I'm lying in my bed in nine or 10 weeks time, whether we made the playoffs or not, we know that we gave it our all," he said.
"It's got its challenges, but hopefully the cherry at the end is worth more than a couple of beers with tea."
The Highlanders face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend.