Highlanders new defence coach relishing role
Sporting a new coaching group under head coach Clarke Dermody, the Highlanders are ready for their opening game of the 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season against the Blues on Saturday
One of the new faces is defence coach Dave Dillon. The former Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty and Waikato flanker, head coach of Kobelco Steelers in Japan, said he and his family had enjoyed their move to Dunedin from their stint in Japan.
He was familiar with playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium from his time with Bay of Plenty, and, like the team, there was a buzz about being back and playing for the first time since the middle of last year.
As defence coach, there had been a concentration during preparation for the season on the law variations allowing more room for the No8 off scrums.
"You've got to adapt to the change…I think, defensively, our objective is to get the ball back or to slow the ball down or in position, where we can buy ourselves time to get better organized.
"Anything that speeds up the game as a rugby purist I love, as a defence coach nothing really changes."
The Blues were a good side with ball players across the park, much like the Highlanders.
"We're looking forward to them coming down here and putting on the rugby for the people from our region."
The Highlanders had the usual mix of youth and experience, which excited him.
The inside backs were solid, and their experience was an asset for the side to build on. First five-eighths Mitch Hunt's return from injury strengthened the side.
England's former first five-eighths, Freddie Burns, would provide energy and experience for the side.
"The thing that I like about Freddie, having had conversations with him, is that he was up in Japan for a while and did a season at Toyota and wherever he is he makes an impact. He throws himself in on and off the field. He's only been here a few weeks but through his rugby ability as a person and man he has fitted in really well."
Dillon felt Burns fitted the bill as a first five-eighths in all requirements in the role, something validated by the experience and success he had achieved.
Halfback Folau Fakatava's return from a knee injury was reward for his effort in recovery, along with the work put in by support staff at the Highlanders, and he was excited about playing again.
Let the games begin! Sign up to our tipping league for a chance to win $5,000 plus weekly prizes and bragging rights.#SuperRugbyPacific— Super Rugby NZ (@SuperRugbyNZ) February 9, 2023