Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph hailed his side's spirit as they fought until the end in their semi-final defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park.
Saturday's negative was a comprehensive one as the Lions were on top for large stages, eventually winning 42-30 after a late Highlanders surge.
The home side was leading 42-16 with five minutes remaining in the game before tries from Waisake Naholo and Joe Wheeler reduced the margin.
"That is the character of the team," head coach Joseph told Stuff as he now departs to pastures new, leaving a franchise that he joined in 2011.
Japan is the next coaching job for Joseph but before that he is looking forward to enjoying some overdue time with his family.
"I'll go and watch some kids' sport. I think in the last 45 days we've been away for 33 so I better go an catch up with my kids, enjoy some family time," he said, before reflecting on his time with the Highlanders.
"It was a great learning opportunity for me," Joseph said.
"It hasn't always been great so to be able to come through the other end and the leave the place in a reasonably good state [for successor Tony Brown] is something I'm proud of."