Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

Super Rugby title-winning pair rejoin Highlanders as staff

By Kim Ekin
Highlanders co-captains Ben Smith and Nasi Manu celebrate winning the 2015 Super Rugby title win (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Former Highlanders’ co-captains Nasi Manu and Ben Smith have joined the 2023 Highlanders’ management team.

ADVERTISEMENT

Manu, who co-captained the team with Smith to a Super Rugby Championship in 2015, has joined in an operations and player mentoring role.

Manu who battled cancer in 2019 before returning to play for Tonga and Otago also played for mid-Canterbury in this year’s Heartland Championship. As yet he has not called time on his playing career.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

“The opportunity to work in a club that I love with and to mentor some younger players was too good to turn down. I don’t know if it signals the end of my playing days just yet, at the moment I am just excited about being able to continue to work in rugby and with the Highlanders,” said Manu.

Highlanders General Manager of Rugby, Greg O’Brien, said Manu is widely respected within the club by both past and present players.

“Nasi came here in 2010 and had an immediate impact on everyone at the club – his engaging approach off the field and uncompromising play on it certainly left a lasting impression. Nasi’s professional attitude and passion for the club will provide a positive influence for many of our up-and-coming players.

“His unique perspective and inspiration come from a guy who has been there and done that in rugby terms,” said O’Brien.

ADVERTISEMENT

Highlanders’ legend Ben Smith has already dabbled in coaching having worked with the Otago NPC Squad during the 2022 NPC season and is looking to extend that experience with the Highlanders. He will be working with the team for two days a week focusing on the back three counterattack.

Related

“I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy coaching, or if the players would respond to my style of coaching, however I certainly enjoyed my time with Otago and was encouraged enough to commit some time to the Highlanders. As most people would probably guess, this region and this club mean a great deal to me,” said Smith.

Highlanders Head Coach Clarke Dermody was keen to utilise Smith’s knowledge if possible.

“Ben has only just retired from a great rugby career, and I knew he probably wasn’t likely to want to commit all his time to coaching straight away. As one of world rugby’s best counter attackers from fullback he understands the role of the back three in detail and the knowledge he will be able to impart to our players will be invaluable.”

Between Smith and Manu they have over 200 games in the Highlanders’ colours and know what it takes to be successful and combined with the new coaching group, their collective presence around the clubrooms should provide the class of ’23 with all the support they need.

ADVERTISEMENT

-Press Release/Highlanders

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

LIVE

{{item.title}}

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

J
Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

13 Go to comments
FEATURE
FEATURE How Kevin Foote's Rebels are making history after 'slap in the face' How Kevin Foote's Rebels are making history after 'slap in the face'
Search