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.

The Highlander­s could be a di cult team to beat this year.
SECRET STRENGTH The Highlander­s could be a di cult team to beat this year.
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