All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith hopes the nine-day turnaround, Sunday afternoon rugby and support from Invercargill's crowd will give the Highlanders a much-needed boost against the Force in their Super Rugby Pacific game.

"It's always great to play down there, the crowd comes out, we're going to be playing in the sun and they have to come all the way from Perth. All those little things add up and all our energy is on getting a win," he said.

Success would come if they could stay in their systems and do their roles.

While looking to lift the side, Smith also knew that the season was his last after a long association with the Highlanders. 

It had been an emotional appearance in Hamilton for his first game of the 2023 campaign.

"I got the goosebumps when I rocked up to Hamilton thinking, and it might be my last time as a Highlander here. So, I got emotional looking at the jersey on Friday night.

"Nothing is guaranteed. You never know – it could be the last time you wear that jersey."

Smith said everything about his final Highlanders campaign would be 'sad, but special.' But his excitement and desire to put his best efforts into the side had not wavered.

However, he said the break to take up the chance to play in Japan was temporary.

"It's see you soon, it's not goodbye."

The Highlanders had endured the hardest possible start to the campaign playing sides from the top of last season's table.

"We've played three really good teams, and we're learning lessons the hard way.

"In the first game, we didn't respect the ball, and the Blues pounced on those mistakes.

"Then, against a really good Crusaders team, we played well for 25 minutes, but they were able to get a bit of ascendancy.

"So, we're learning the hard way. But one positive from the Chiefs game is that the scoreline at halftime was tight, which was a big focus for us.

"We've had three weeks of lessons and pain. We're under no illusions, we're at the bottom of the table, and it's a place we don't want to be, but that's our reality.

"Those three games have gone. We're excited about what the next month holds for us, and we're looking to climb the table, one game at a time."

That starts with the Force in Invercargill on Sunday.

Smith has worked with younger players but was also mindful of getting his game right.

"I had a few bad kicks at the weekend, and a few tackles that I missed, so it's being willing to be vulnerable in reviews and say, 'hey, I got this wrong, and it cost us badly'.

"Rugby is a fast-moving machine. You've got to move on."