Tony Brown to bring up 100 games as a coach

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He will reach the milestone, something he regards as a by-product of doing a job he loves rather than a goal when the Highlanders play the Fijian Drua in Suva in DHL Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday.


Initially an assistant coach to Jamie Joseph, he brought experience from 18 Tests as an All Black between 1999 and 2001, 91 games for the Highlanders and 80 games for Otago. He also played in Japan for the Sanyo Wild Knights and South Africa for the Sharks and Stormers, that saw his total of Super Rugby games lifted to 106.


But, he has been like a homing pigeon. Stints coaching Otago and the Highlanders are interspersed with time at the Knights and Sunwolves in Japan.


Included in that was a taste of competition success when the Highlanders won the 2015 Super Rugby title.


He's been part of Super Rugby since it began in 1996, and is well-placed to offer an assessment of changes since then.


Brown said that since starting on the coaching road as an assistant coach to Joseph, all the teams were better and better coached.


"There are small advantages you can achieve, but the players, and the coaching, have gone to another level since the start of Super Rugby.


"Every year it gets harder and harder to attack, and every year new things come up in rugby and the game, and that's the challenge, and that's what I love," he said.

Beginning as an assistant had given him a more hands-on connection with the players.


"It allows me to coach the players and inspire players through the way we play. That was most of my coaching career for the Highlanders.


"Now, as the head coach, you've got to try and make sure that the whole organisation is running well.


"You've got to make sure that the team is in a good place before they take the field.


"But, I've loved every minute of both roles. It sort of hurts at the moment that we're not doing as well as we should, or as well as we can, but I know that the boys are trying their hearts out, and I know that good things are going to happen in the near future," he said.


Captain Aaron Smith has been part of the Highlanders since Brown began coaching.


He said Brown's influence was as much off the field as it was on. He was Highlander No2 and cared for the franchise and all involved.


"The way Brownie looks at the game, the way we have a stadium with a roof on it and the way he coaches around trying to get each player's strengths out on the field has always been something I've loved.


"I've been a product of that and it's given me opportunities. I owe a lot to Brownie. I'm happy to be a friend of his but also to be coached by him. He always challenges me to be better every year, every session," he said.


Brown had also shown his ability to come up with something different in games, always looking to keep the opposition on their toes. Former first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga's reverse kick over the Hurricanes backline in 2016 was an example.


Smith said he always looked forward to training on Monday and Tuesday when moves for the next game were revealed.


"Watch out Saturday night," he said.


"He sees the game differently which is something I love and he also sees it from your point of view.


"I love the balance he brings as a coach. He brings the accountability but he can also have a laugh, have a joke and be a good Highlander man. We're very lucky to have a man who cares about the club as a head coach," he said.


The Highlanders take on the Fijian Drua at ANZ Stadium in Suva at 4.35pm NZT Saturday live on Sky Sport NZ.


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