The Highlanders have announced the signing of former co-captain Shane Christie as a new member of the franchise’s coaching staff ahead of the 2021 season.

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Christie, who co-captained the Highlanders in 2016 and was part of the championship-winning side the year beforehand, re-joins the club as a defence coach as the coaching restructure continues in the wake of Aaron Mauger’s departure as head coach.

Mauger’s three-year contract wasn’t renewed by the Highlanders at the end of this year’s season following two quarter-final finishes in 2018 and 2019, as well as a fourth-placed finish in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

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His place as head coach has since been taken by assistant coach Tony Brown, who is set for his second stint as Highlanders head coach, leaving gaps to be filled among the rest of the coaching staff.

The addition of Christie has gone some way to filling those voids, with the 35-year-old joining a coaching group that also consists of scrum coach Clarke Dermody and skills coach Riki Flutey.

The current cohort of coaches is smaller than the contingent that worked under Mauger, with the assistant coach role left by Mark Hammett earlier this year abandoned due financial restrictions brought on by COVID-19.

Regardless, hopes remain high for Christie to implement the good work he has shown alongside Dermody in Tasman’s coaching ranks that recently helped the Mako to a second straight Mitre 10 Cup title.

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“Naturally I knew Shane as a player and even then I suspected he would make a good coach, he is diligent, driven and most of all very passionate about the Highlanders,” Brown said in a statement of his new recruit.

“I’m sure he will slot into our coaching team very well he already has a good working relationship with Clarke at Tasman.

“A lot of defence is about attitude and Shane has a very competitive attitude and he loves to win in other words he hates to lose, which I like as a motivating factor.”

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Having played 30 times for the Highlanders between 2014 and 2017, all of which came under the guidance of Brown, Christie was excited about his return to the franchise.

“Obviously I am stoked to be able to work alongside Brownie, Derms and Flutes,” Christie said.

“The chance to coach defence for the Highlanders is an awesome opportunity and I can’t wait to get to Dunedin and get stuck into our work. It’s already been a big year and this is a great way to finish it for me.”

The Highlanders will announce their 2021 Super Rugby squad at 7am on Thursday.

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