WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Former Otago Highlanders coach Tony Brown is returning to the team from Japan’s Sunwolves for the 2020 Super Rugby season, the Dunedin-based side said on Thursday.
Brown, who worked as an assistant to Jamie Joseph at the 2015 champions and then as head coach before he joined his former All Blacks team mate in Japan, will be an assistant to head coach Aaron Mauger, the team said.
Both Joseph and Brown have not been involved with the Sunwolves this season with their focus on the Japan national side as they prepare to host the Rugby World Cup later this year.
“As most people would know the Highlanders are very special team to me and the opportunity to be involved again is too good to turn down,” Brown, an Otago and Highlanders stalwart who earned 18 caps for the All Blacks, said in a statement.
“They are a great team to coach, they play positive footy and next year they have some exciting new talent coming through that I believe I can help develop to the next level.”
The Sunwolves were told in March that next season would be their last in Super Rugby after the competition decided to revert to a purely southern hemisphere affair of 14 teams in a round-robin format.
Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the organisation was pleased to have enticed Brown back to Dunedin, especially with the side losing several veteran players like All Blacks Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock and Waisake Naholo.
“It would be fair to say that next year we will be embarking on a new era without some of our better-known players from recent times,” Clark said.
“Brownie will fit in well with our current coaching group and will no doubt get the best out of the new talent the coaching group will have at their disposal next season.”
Mauger said that while current defence coach Glenn Delaney was leaving to join the Welsh regional side the Scarlets, it was unclear at this stage what role Brown would have at the Highlanders.
“Once the season is finished we will do an extensive review of our program and our coaching set up, as we do every season, and the coaching roles and responsibilities for 2020 will be discussed and finalised post that,” said Mauger.
The Highlanders are third in the New Zealand conference on 29 points, but just outside the top-eight playoffs spots with two matches remaining in their season.
They have a bye this week.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)