Highlanders Coaches Will Change – And They Will Have to Target New Players Too

Paul Cooley is a sports reporter at Stuff.

Opinion: Big changes are coming to the Highlanders.

Tony Brown has left for Japan, and material Understands that plans are afoot for a five-strong coach setup for 2023 and beyond, including three newcomers.

The game presents an opportunity to improve the team – especially with players who may already be in Super Rugby events but are not getting game time.

Read more:
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, Fearless chief travels to Christchurch for Super Rugby Pacific semi-final
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material has compiled a list of players who should be on the radar.

Peter Umaga-Jensen, left, and Thomas Umaga-Jensen, left, after a Highlanders-Hurricane game at Forsythe Barr Stadium in April.

Joe Ellison / Getty Images

Peter Umaga-Jensen, left, and Thomas Umaga-Jensen, left, after a Highlanders-Hurricane game at Forsythe Barr Stadium in April.

Peter Umaga-Jensen (Hurricane)

The obvious choice, given her relationship with twin brother Thomas. It looks like the Hurricanes midfielder was pushed down the pecking order in Wellington, and a move to the Highlanders’ midfield partner Thomas could restart his All Blacks career.

A class act in the number 13 jersey could have brought out the best from Peter Thomas, and vice versa. No one has really finished 13th in the Highlanders this year, and Peter will be adding another dimension to the attack.

Tom Florence in action against the Crusaders in March for the Chiefs.

Peter Meacham/Getty Images

Tom Florence in action against the Crusaders in March for the Chiefs.

Tom Florence (Heads)

He’s not keeping track of the chiefs, who pile up in the loose-fitting department. Florence, 24, deserves to play Super Rugby regularly as he is a mobile and tough loose forward capable of covering multiple positions.

He was a star for Taranaki as they dominated NPCs last year, and spent some time with the Highlanders two years ago. He made his debut off the bench late in the 2020 season – and has improved a lot since then.

Jacob Ratumaitawuki-Nipkens faced off during the Blues-Fijian Drua in Melbourne in April.

Graham Denholm / Getty Images

Jacob Ratumaitawuki-Nipkens faced off during the Blues-Fijian Drua in Melbourne in April.

Jacob Ratumaitawuki-Neepkens (Blues)

The Blues wouldn’t want to lose an outside talent, but he appears to be a fourth or fifth choice on the wing in Auckland and third or fourth choice at fullback.

He is only 20 years old, but he will be a strong contender for the starting position in Dunedin, either in the number 15 jersey or at number 14, where he has been a standout for Taranaki.

Emoni Narawa left the blues in search of regular action at the chiefs, and has blossomed this year. The Ratumaitawuki-Neipkens could have done the same in the Highlanders, although the same could be said of Kini Naholo (crusader) and Chai Fihaki (crusader).

Number 10 Brett Cameron is returning to New Zealand after a year in Japan.

Joe Ellison / Getty Images

Number 10 Brett Cameron is returning to New Zealand after a year in Japan.

Brett Cameron (Manawato)

The one-cap All Blacks are returning to New Zealand from a season in Japan, and will boost the Highlanders’ options at No.

Mitch Hunt has had a rough year, while it’s uncertain whether Sam Gilbert’s move to No. 10 is in the offing for a long time – with Josh Ioane still in Otago, Gilbert can play most NPCs in fullback.

At 25, Cameron is a mature playwright who knows how to steer a team around the field.

Spanner at work? Highlanders could face competition by storm for services to Cameroon.

Josh Eoin has not been able to secure the number 10 jersey on the Chiefs.

Graham Denholm / Getty Images

Josh Eoin has not been able to secure the number 10 jersey on the Chiefs.

Josh Ioane (Heads)

It may not be as far-fetched as it first appears: a change of coaches in the Highlanders may lead to a renewed appreciation of Eoin’s qualities as No.

Equally important, Ioane hasn’t been able to take the No. 10 jersey from Brian Gatland in the Chiefs, and the potential return of Damien McKenzie in 2023 will lead to more competition.

Ioane’s original deal with the Chiefs was for a year, so he’s theoretically available — and a lot of fans in the Deep South would welcome him back.

From left, Abraham Pole, Christian Leo-Willi and departing Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.

Joe Ellison / Getty Images

From left, Abraham Pole, Christian Leo-Willi and departing Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.

Christian Leo-Willi (Otago) and Abraham Pol (Otago)

Loose Forward Leo-Willi should be as close as you reach a certainty. He was with the Highlanders this year as injury cover, and immediately looked home. He should be upgraded to a full contract to complement Marino Mikaele-Tu’u and Shannon Frizel.

The Young Otago Prop Poll was excellent for the Crusaders and Moana Pasifica this year, and looks set for a bright future. Highlanders should be careful not to let him slip out of the area.

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