The Highlanders ran in seven tries as they thrashed the Cheetahs 45-24 in Bloemfontein this morning to move into the Super Rugby playoff places, level on points with the second placed Chiefs.
Aaron Smith and debutant Ryan Tongia, a convert from rugby league, both scored two tries each while wing Patrick Osborne, forward Gareth Evans and fullback Ben Smith added one each for the New Zealand franchise.
It was a disappointing result for Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske who last weekend announced his intention to quit at the end of the season.
The Highlanders romped to 38-3 lead just after half-time before allowing the hosts to score three quick tries to ignite hopes of an unlikely comeback.
Forward Willie Britz sparked recovery attempt by setting up tries for Rayno Benjamin in the 65th minute and Carl Wegner two minutes later.
Then, in the 72nd minute, Francois Venter went over to reduce the deficit to 38-17 before Ben Smith's try applied the brakes to the home side's resurgence.
The win lifts the Higlanders to 39 points, level with the second placed Chiefs in the overall standings and only behind on points differential.
The Hurricanes top the table on 52 points, 13 clear of the Chiefs and Highlanders.
Also this morning the Brumbies put themselves back in playoff contention with a 30-20 bonus point victory over the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Brumbies won their seventh game of the season to move to the top of the Australian conference standings on 38 points, just above the Waratahs.
The Bulls lead the South African conference on 35 points.