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Brown demands patience against Sunwolves

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/04/2017

Highlanders coach Tony Brown is reminding his players nothing comes easily as they aim to make the Sunwolves' trip to New Zealand as difficult as possible.

Fresh off the bye, the in-form New Zealand Super Rugby side host the struggling Japanese outfit in Invercargill on Saturday.

It represents another taxing assignment for the Filo Tiatia-coached Sunwolves, who are coming off a 50-3 hammering from the Crusaders in Christchurch.

However, Brown resisted the chance to rest a number of regular starters and develop some depth.

He wants patience and discipline to be the bedrock of their performance.

"Hopefully, if we get enough ball, and good ball, we can score some tries but there's a lot of hard work to do before you can score those tries," he said.

"We always want to pick our best team, and we've done that. No game is easy in this competition."

The Highlanders hold a four-win, three-loss record and sit fourth in the New Zealand conference after starting the season with a solitary win from their first four matches.

That turbulent beginning, exacerbated by a growing injury toll, has started to become a distant memory for Brown.

All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo is the latest high-profile player to return to the side, while instrumental hooker Ash Dixon could return in a week.

"We've been pretty lucky on the injury front in the last couple of weeks. We're getting a few guys back and not losing too many. We're in a good position now, and the players coming back are ready to go."

Saturday's match also sees the reunion of Sunwolves halfback Fumiaki Tanaka with his former franchise.

The Japanese No.9 spent four seasons with the Highlanders and was an instrumental part of the side's team culture.

Lock Joe Wheeler had plenty of sentiments for Tanaka ahead of their match-up in Invercargill.

"It will be strange playing against him, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to it because he is one of the world's best halfbacks.

"Hopefully we can have a bit of banter out there and maybe get him in the bottom of a ruck and give him a bit of a ruffle up."

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