Wellington - After 12 seasons playing in a side that has flummoxed fans with their maddening inconsistency, Conrad Smith has six days of his Hurricanes career remaining and the 33-year-old centre hopes to go out on the ultimate high.
The Hurricanes, despite being heavy on All Blacks and imbued with an all-out attacking mentality, have never won a Super Rugby title in 20 seasons... their only previous championship match being the 2006 'Fog Final' when they lost to the Crusaders.
Smith played no part in that final after breaking his leg earlier in the year.
On Saturday, however, the Hurricanes gave themselves another shot at the title after hammering the Brumbies 29-9 at a virtually sold-out Wellington stadium to set up a final at home against the Highlanders.
Ups and downs
It will be the last Hurricanes match for Smith, who will join French club Pau at the conclusion of the World Cup, though he acknowledged the thought had crossed his mind his Hurricanes career could have ended on Saturday.
"I was particularly nervous before the game," Smith told reporters. "You sit around for a week and you think about it.
"But to beat them and then move on to the final is huge but at the same time you know you want to go one more."
Victory against the Highlanders would cap a one-club Super Rugby career for Smith, who has dealt with team ups and downs, injuries and a controversial clear-out of senior players by then coach Mark Hammett at the end of the 2011 season.
The team have also struggled to maintain the interest of the crowds, who once flocked to home games and made them the best supported New Zealand side despite the fickle nature of Wellington's weather.
Attendances dropped away with results, though the crowd on Saturday was the largest for a Super Rugby match at the stadium since their 2006 semi-final victory over the Waratahs.
"It's a reward for the consistency," Smith said.
"We knew that if we put ourselves in that position on the table then ... the numbers would turn up.
"It was particularly pleasing ... I'd keep playing for a few more years if I could play in front of a crowd like that every week."
The team have also had to contend with personal grief following the death of former Hurricanes loose forward Jerry Collins in a car crash in France earlier this month.
Smith said the team had done well to keep those thoughts from distracting them and it would be something they would emphasise again in their final week together.
"I know if you focus on that stuff you don't always play well," he said.
"So it was a matter of just making sure you think about what you're going to do in the game and doing your job.
"I think that's going to be the same case again next week because there will be a great buzz around the place."