Hanging on for a desperate 22-21 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Highlanders, the Hurricanes now look comfortable in the top-eight place but must find improvements against Australian sides.

They face two tough challenges, against the third-placed Reds in Melbourne on Saturday during the historic Super Round in Melbourne and the Brumbies, who share first with the Blues, a week later in Canberra.

While pleased with the win, coach Jason Holland said he was disappointed not to take more from the first half when so many opportunities were created but not finished.

"We were always going to get the Highlanders coming back at us if you don't take your opportunities. They dug it in, and that's how it turned out, we just got over the line," he said.

Incremental improvements have Highlanders' coach Tony Brown still in a positive frame of mind ahead of the Australian leg of Super Rugby Pacific.

They play the Brumbies first-up in Melbourne, then the Fiji Drua and Reds before returning home to play the Force.

After another close loss in Dunedin, Brown said he felt the team was on the edge of a change in fortunes.

"I think we've showed a lot of heart right throughout the campaign. Nothing's going our way, Decisions aren't going our way," he said.

But his side remained unbowed. They were putting in the effort off the park, and their game preparation was of the best quality.

"At some stage we're going to get the rub of the green, and we're going to turn these narrow losses into good wins," he said.

The loss of lock Josh Dickson for head contact in a tackle was a case of him getting it wrong, and the laws around that were clear.