Highlanders will be without their head coach Tony Brown for the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign that kicks off on 14th May.
Brown, who joined Highlanders as an assistant coach in 2020 took in charge of the club in 2021 season and is contracted with the Dunedin based side until the end of 2022 season.
The 46-year-old also has a contract with Japan as an assistant coach and had already worked with the Brave Blossoms in the 2019 World Cup. Though both the assignments were not supposed to overlap, the pandemic coronavirus has made the situation tough for the former New Zealand international.
He will now work with Japan for their game against British and Irish Lions to be played at Murrayfield Stadium on 26th June.
“Having to head to Japan earlier than expected is disappointing particularly leaving my team before the end of the season, it’s not what anyone would have wanted, he said.
"I will be in touch with Clarke and the other coaches on a daily basis and I am positive they will respond well to the situation.
“Even though the Lions match has only recently been finalised it’s unfortunate that the Japanese preparation has been so limited we will need to go into an intense camp almost immediately to get organised.”
The absence of Brown will see assistant coach Clarke Dermody step up to guide the Highlanders in the upcoming Trans-Tasman series and Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark admitted that even though the situation is not ideal, they have full faith on the coaching structure in place.
“No one could have predicted it would come to this, due to the pandemic the Lions tour itinerary has been completely up in the air for the better part of a year.
"The way it has worked out means Brownie’s international obligations suddenly overlap with his Sky Super Rugby duties which obviously is a situation that doesn’t sit comfortably with anyone.”
“However, as an organisation we know we still have his services even though he is not on the ground with us, we have every faith in Clarke and the coaching and management group to deal with the challenge.”
Highlanders finished fourth in the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with three wins from eight matches.