One of Otago's favourite sons has been handed the region's most coveted coaching role, with Tony Brown set to take charge of the Highlanders in 2017.

But Brown's tenure as head coach will initially last only one season before he once again links with Jamie Joseph in a position with the Japanese national team.

After Joseph was in January confirmed as Japan's head coach, the Highlanders began a search to replace the man who led them to their first Super Rugby crown. And although Brown was initially reluctant to step up from the assistant role he has held since 2014, the defending champions today appointed the man who played 91 times for the franchise.

Brown will be joined next year by fellow former All Blacks Scott McLeod, who will continue in his current position as assistant coach, and Mark Hammett, who is set to return to the South Island after a season coaching the Sunwolves in Japan.


Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the franchise was delighted to be replacing Joseph with a proven coach, although their was one obvious negative to the news.

"Ideally we would have liked his appointment to be longer," Clark said. "However we are excited by the coaching group we have appointed for 2017 and are confident we will find a quality replacement for Tony in the time frame we have available."

Brown said he was excited and humbled at the opportunity to take the top job for the 2017 season.

"I wasn't sure the timing was right for me, but having spoken to people inside and outside the organisation, I know now that this is too good an opportunity to pass up," Brown said. "Knowing that I will have Stormy (McLeod) and Hammer (Hammett) with me was an important part of the decision and I'm excited at the prospect of working with them next year."

McLeod, an assistant since 2013, has extended a contract due to end at the end of this season and will remain with the southern side until 2019.

"Obviously whenever you finish a contract you have to weigh up all your options and it certainly wasn't an easy decision, but I get a lot of satisfaction from working with the current group of players and coaches," McLeod said.

Hammett, meanwhile, brings a wealth of experience to the assistant coach role. In 2013 and 2014 he was the head coach of the Hurricanes before taking up a similar role with Cardiff Blues the following season. The former hooker then became the first head coach of the Japanese expansion club the Sunwolves this year, but was lured back to New Zealand by the success of Joseph's team.

"All I really want to do is make a contribution to the group from what I have learned over the last few years as a head coach, assist Brownie and Stormy as much as I can, and build on the good work that has already being done," he said. "The opportunity to work with the Highlanders is very motivating for me and I am looking forward to it."