NZ Rugby World
The Unknown Southern Force
It isn’t often that a change in head coach becomes the key story line for a team heading into a new campaign. Sure, those movements tend to create a bit of interest, but not to the extent that Tony Brown’s appointment at the helm will reach. Brown has a reputation as an attacking mastermind which has been developed throughout his coaching career. If he can formulate a plan to get the best out of this Highlanders team, they could be the dark horse of the competition. The Highlanders surprised many last year with the performances. They took the fight to the rest of the competition and played well above what their ultimate fourth placing suggests. For 2021, they have to potential to repeat the dose, if not outdo their work from a year ago. They recruited well, adding the likes of
Billy Harmon, Solomon Alaimalo and Liam Squire, and though they lost their defensive leader in Dillon Hunt to the Blues, they have a number of suitable replacements on the openside of the scrum. Without having a slew of big names - only Aaron Smith and Shannon Frizell were All Blacks in 2020 - the Highlanders have a strong squad and one that has been playing together for some time now. When, or if, the time comes for the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition, the Highlanders will be a sure contender, though both competitions will likely come down to the familiar question of how will the Highlanders manage against the star-studded teams like the Crusaders? You know the Highlanders are going to back themselves, and they’ll play some entertaining rugby in the process.