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Highlanders reveal big change with Jamie Joseph taking over as head coach

By Finn Morton
Jamie Joseph of the Highlanders looks on ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season match between Highlanders and Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium on February 10, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have made a significant announcement for the next Super Rugby Pacific season by revealing former Maori All Blacks and Japan mastermind Jamie Joseph will replace Clarke Dermody as head coach.


Joseph, 54, is well-regarded as one of New Zealand’s leading rugby minds after successful stints with teams including Wellington, the Sunwolves and of course Japan. But the popular coach is beloved down south after a historic run in 2015.

With the likes of Lima Sopoaga, Ben Smith and Elliot Dixon running around in a Highlanders jersey each, Joseph was the man who coached them to the team’s first-ever Super Rugby triumph when they defeated the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Years later, after a successful spell with Japan’s Brave Blossoms which included a trip to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, the University of Otago graduate was talked up as a contender for the All Blacks’ top job along with Scott Robertson.

But after returning to Dunedin in the newly created role of Head of Rugby in the early months of 2024, Joseph will move into a familiar role next year as head coach. Clarke Dermody will remain at the club but as an assistant coach under Joseph.

“I’m delighted to be back coaching and leading the Highlanders again,” Joseph said in a statement. “I am keen to get stuck in with Clarke and the rest of my coaching team next season.

“My goal is to take this team as far as it can go and to build a record of success that we can all be proud of.”


Joseph takes up one of the more intriguing coaching jobs in Super Rugby Pacific with a young core at the Highlanders showing genuine signs of promise in 2024.

First five-eighth Cameron Millar made the No. 10 jersey his own during a series of strong performances in the back half of the year, and others including Folau Fakatava and Fabian Holland also impressed in either navy or maroon jerseys.

Under Dermody, the Dunedin-based outfit claimed a sixth-place finish on the ladder before going down in the knockout rounds 32-16 to the Brumbies in Canberra. The former head coach can see why the appointment of Joseph is a “positive” move.

“It’s a change that Jamie discussed with me and while I am very proud of what we achieved this season, I accept the view that if it will be of benefit to the club to have his coaching influence on the team next year,” Dermody explained.


“From that perspective, I believe it’s a positive step and I’m happy to support the move in the best interests of the club.

“I know there is plenty of growth left in this team,” he added. “They are all still mostly young and relatively inexperienced players at Super Rugby level.

“We all learned a lot this year and the benefits of that experience will pay dividends for us next year. Personally, I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with Jamie in unleashing the potential within the team next season.”

During Joseph’s various stints both domestically and abroad, it’s hard to look past the aforementioned 2016 Super Rugby title and the 2019 Rugby World Cup run with the Brave Blossoms in Japan  as career highlights.

But another accolade that deserves mention is Joseph leading Wellington to their first Ranfurly Shield victory in 26 years. That moment of history came during a memorable multi-year stint in the capital.

Joseph will look to create more good memories as the Highlanders’ young core looks to build on their quarter-final appearance under former head coach Dermody earlier this year.

“We believe these changes will take advantage of the unique skill sets that both Jamie and Clarke possess,” Highlanders Chairman, Peter Kean, said.

“Jamie has a proven track record as a coach at international level and that experience and knowledge will be hugely beneficial to the Highlanders.

“As a board we are delighted Clarke will remain with the Highlanders and he will have an enormous contribution to make as Jami’s assistant.”

All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Jon 12 days ago

Not sure why he just didnt run the show from where he was. Tightening the budget strings I suppose.

Chiefs Mana 12 days ago

Another international caliber coach in charge of a SR team, fantastic.

Utiku Old Boy 13 days ago

Smart move by Highlanders and mature response from Dermody to accept the change. JJ has a lot to offer the development of these players and in moving the team into the top tier. Some recruitment may still be required but players languishing elsewhere will be more excited by an invitation with JJ at HC. Big boost for NZ rugby.

Nickers 13 days ago

All of a sudden the SR coaching ranks are stacked with talent. A very good sign for NZ rugby for the next few years.

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