The Otago Highlanders have lost head coach Tony Brown for the entire Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition, with the New Zealander departing to help Japan prepare for the start of their season.

An assistant coach in Jamie Joseph’s Japan staff, Brown must clear two weeks of quarantine in the East Asian nation ahead of a training camp before the Brave Blossoms head to Edinburgh for the June 26 match against the British and Irish Lions.

“Having to head to Japan earlier than expected is disappointing particularly leaving my team before the end of the season, it’s not what anyone would have wanted,” Brown said in a Highlanders statement.

Highlanders assistant coach Clarke Dermody will take over as head coach for the Trans-Tasman competition.

Highlanders chief executive, Roger Clark, said the overlap of Brown’s international and Super Rugby duties did not “sit comfortably with anyone”.

“However, as an organisation we know we still have his services even though he is not on the ground with us, we have every faith in Clarke and the coaching and management group to deal with the challenge,” Clark said.

The Dunedin-based Highlanders finished fourth in New Zealand’s five-team Super Rugby Aotearoa competition at the end of an injury-plagued campaign.

They host the Queensland Reds in the opening round of the Trans-Tasman competition on May 14.