Mafi arrested for assaulting Rebels teammate

Strong finish earns Highlanders five-try win Highlanders halfback Kayne Hammington

A virtuoso Reece Hodge display wasn't enough as the Melbourne Rebels fell 43-37 to the Highlanders, leaving their Super Rugby finals hopes teetering.

Up 17-3 early and then 34-22 entering the final quarter, they leaked three late tries to suffer a third-straight loss.

The losing bonus point for the Rebels ended the slender playoff hopes of the ACT Brumbies, who finished their season with a 40-31 victory over the Australian Conference winners Waratahs in Sydney.

South Africa's Sharks beat Argentina's Jaguares 20-10 in Durban on Sunday morning (AEST), demoting the Rebels to ninth and snuffing out the prospect of a maiden play-offs appearance.

Hooker Akker van der Merwe and winger Kobus van Wyk scored tries as the Sharks pipped the Melbourne Rebels for the final playoff berth and set up a match in Canterbury next weekend.

A "gutted" Hodge said his team's hot-and-cold effort mirrored their season.

The Rebels took early control of the match with tries to backrower Amanaki Mafi and Hodge to lead 17-3 midway through the first half.

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Momentum switched when Melbourne halfback Michael Ruru was shown a questionable yellow card for a foot trip on Lima Sopoaga.

Naholo and Kayne Hammington capitalised on the one-man advantage with tries to level the scores.

Teihorangi Walden responded right on the halftime hooter and the Rebels took a narrow 24-22 lead into the break.

While the Highlanders had clinched their place in the playoffs before Saturday's match, allowing them to play an under-strength team, the Rebels needed to win to be sure of claiming the eighth and last playoff spot.

"We've just got to be bigger and better next time if we get the chance next week", he said.

Two tries on three minutes from winger Tevita Li and replacement hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate gave the Highlanders a two-point lead after 66 minutes and lock Tom Franklin added a sixth try for the Highlanders four minutes from time.

The Highlanders could face the Lions, the Jaguares or the Waratahs at the quarter-final stage after putting back-to-back defeats behind them with a win in their final match of the regular season.

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