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Jamie Joseph's New Zealand return 'puts everyone on notice'

By Ned Lester
Jamie Joseph. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have made a huge statement in their off-season rebuild with the signing of Jamie Joseph to a newly created Head of Rugby role in 2024.

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It’s a position tailor-made to amplify Joseph’s quality and impact throughout the club, allowing the former Super Rugby champion to mentor coach Clarke Dermody, provide support for the coaching team as a whole and apply his “ruthless” player recruitment chops to the New Zealand scene in addition to managing player retention.

The Highlanders had already made a strong start to their rebuild, locking in several New Zealand U20 standouts as well as recruiting the likes of Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Rhys Patchell and Mitchell Dunshea.

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But there’s plenty of work still to be done after missing the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs this season and losing 16 players for the 2024 season. Those departing players include Aaron Smith, Shannon Frizell, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Mitch Hunt and Josh Dickson; huge losses for the club.

But Joseph’s return after seven years in Japan – where he led the Brave Blossoms to their first-ever quarter-final at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – is a giant step in the right direction.

“Great news for the Highlanders,” Jeff Wilson told The Breakdown. “And I would say that it literally puts everyone on notice if you’re at the Highlanders. The fact that we know who Jamie is and what he’s done for the franchise, where he’s coming from and he wants to give back but he also wants to be a part of a successful franchise.

“So, he’s going to cast his eye over things. I think he’ll have a break after the World Cup because he’s been with Japan for a long time now but I’d say early next year he’ll come back into the fold.

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“The good thing about Jamie is he won’t rush to making decisions, he’ll come in and run his eye over things and then say ‘you know what? Here are some adjustments we can make’ to help the Highlanders compete.”

It’s shaping up to be a youthful Highlanders outfit with an eye on the future, with multiple young stars like Ethan de Groot and Folau Fakatava already donning the All Blacks jersey.

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The addition of Joseph also adds veteran quality to the coaching landscape in New Zealand after it was decimated by the naming of 2024’s All Blacks coaching group, which included three of the five Super Rugby club’s head coaches.

Filling the void has been some world-class coaching talent with former Scotland and Fiji head coach Vern Cotter taking the helm at the Blues while former All Black sevens coach Clark Laidlaw assumes the reins at the Hurricanes.

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Joseph’s return though is the most promising in the eyes of former All Black Sir John Kirwin, who foresees All Blacks coaching potential for the 53-year-old.

“I think it’s great for New Zealand rugby as well because I think Jamie has the potential to be an All Blacks coach and the next All Blacks coach,” Kirwin stated. “I think he’s ambitious and I think he’s always been ambitious.”

Kirwin added how the appointment of Scott Robertson as next All Blacks coach – bucking the trend of promoting former assistants from within the All Blacks environment – has set a positive precedent for ambitious coaches like Joseph.

“The decision to actually pick a coach from home this time from Super Rugby is really good. (Jamie) has had his experience, he’s coming home and I think it’s great. I think he’s a good, rugby man.”

Of course, Kirwin couldn’t let the matter rest without throwing a dig at former Highlander Jeff Wilson.

“I’m pleased for your Highlanders, because you need something, son.”

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Comments

1 Comment
J
Jen 301 days ago

I like this news. I hope the Landers perk up next year and have a good one.

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