During his time with the Highlanders, Tony Brown believed the Australian Super Rugby franchises were too predictable.
His theory proved to be accurate as the New Zealand sides enjoyed an incredible 40-match winning run over their Australian counterparts in a streak that lasted two years.
However, the Sunwolves head coach said he has seen a vast improvement in the way the game was being played in Australia, with the Waratahs leading the charge in their nation’s development of gameplay tactics.
Speaking on the Fox Rugby Podcast in the lead-up to their clash against the in-form Daryl Gibson-coached side in Newcastle, Brown said it was becoming more difficult to scout Australian outfits due to their implementation of kick-based tactics.
“It’s interesting because when I was with the Highlanders the Australian teams tended to hold the ball for a long time and they always believed that that was the way to win games of rugby,” the 44-year-old said.
“I felt as though we always had an advantage there because we just knew what they were going to do, and then you could plan around that and put them under real pressure.
“But, from what’s happened in the last couple of years and definitely the development of the Waratahs’ rugby, their kicking game has become a real weapon for them, and when you’ve got guys like Israel Folau, the aerial game is now a massive part of the Waratahs game as well.
“They’ve developed their game hugely in the last couple of years and are actually playing a lot more like the Highlanders did a few years ago.”
Brown coached the Highlanders as an assistant to Jamie Joseph between 2013 and 2016, helping the franchise claim its maiden Super Rugby crown in 2015.
Following the departure of Joseph to the Japanese national side at the end of the 2016 campaign, Brown took the head coach title for the 2017 season, leading them to a quarter-final appearance.
He then followed Joseph to the Japanese national side and then Sunwolves, again as an assistant, but is now at the helm of the club that is set to face the axe from Super Rugby at the end of next year.
Despite the dim future of the Tokyo-based club, Brown was optimistic of what his side can produce in their immediate future.
A win against the Waratahs this weekend would be an upset, especially considering New South Wales side’s shock 20-12 win over the back-to-back reigning champion Crusaders last week, but the Sunwolves nearly produced a victory in an enthralling 31-30 loss in the reverse fixture in Tokyo last month.
“The Waratahs will be pretty happy with themselves after an awesome win against the Crusaders, not many teams have been able to upset those guys in the last few years, so that’s a pretty awesome result for Gibbo and his boys,” Brown said.
“As far as our chances go, if we get our game right, we try and move the Waratahs boys around a bit and hopefully entice them into playing a bit of Sunwolves rugby like we did in Tokyo, then we’ll be able to potentially have a good old ding dong battle and something that could be quite entertaining.”
Watch – Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson ahead of Sunwolves clash:
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