NZ Rugby World
The loss of Dillon Hunt would have hurt them but for the fact they have picked up Billy Harmon. But the big steal of course is that they have Liam Squire back and that could be a game changer for them.
He might be the man to inspire and lift those around him as there is no doubt that the pack has a bit of steel and mongrel about it. Kazuki Himeno at No 8 is another great buy as he has a vast skill-set and the Highlanders could work some clever moves off the back of their scrum.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TACTICALLY?
It will be high work rate rugby with a touch of magic thrown in. The forwards will get off the line and defend and try to counter ruck. They will not stop running.
And the backs will find ways to use the tools at their disposal. This is one of Tony Brown’s great skills – he makes best use of everything the team has.
GUT FEEL – RISERS OR FALLERS?
They are risers for the simple reason they have given the head coaching job to Tony Brown who remains one of the smartest operators in the world game.
He will restore some pride and identity and give the Highlanders that never give up attitude that was at the heart of the team when they won the title in 2015.
WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?
We think the Highlanders will be competitive and get close to winning a lot of games but ultimately not close out when they have a chance.
They will finish fourth but with a sense that they were much better than that – maybe just one bounce of the ball away from being higher.