Super Rugby - Highlanders
Joseph safe at Highlanders
July 17, 2013
Jamie Joseph has held the Highlanders reins since 2010 © Getty Images
A review has already begun into the worst season in the Highlanders' 18-year history.
The disastrous campaign ended in meltdown last Friday when the Highlanders surrendered a 31-7 half-time lead to lose to the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne. The Highlanders finished 14th, ahead only of the new Southern Kings franchise in Port Elizabeth, and general manager Roger Clark said the review process would be similar to previous years.
The review of the coaches should be completed by the middle of next month but the Highlanders will be sticking with Jamie Joseph as head coach. Clark said Joseph had signed for two years and that would not change. He would not comment on speculation Joseph has a clause in his contract that he cannot be dropped because of on-field results. Joseph took over from Glen Moore after a poor season in 2010 in which the Highlanders won only three games and lost 10. This year they won three and lost 13.
Assistant coaches Scott McLeod and Jon Preston have just completed their first seasons with the Highlanders. Both have two-year contracts, McLeod with the New Zealand Rugby Union and Preston with the Highlanders.
Hosea Gear, Kade Poki and Jamie Mackintosh are confirmed losses while the Highlanders also seem resigned to Colin Slade returning to the Crusaders. Ma'a Nonu also seems unlikely to return. He was offered a contract extension in April but has yet to sign.
It was a season of unwanted records for the Highlanders - the most games lost (13), the most points conceded (496), the most tries conceded (55) and the worst points differential (minus 122).
The Highlanders developed an alarming habit of switching off in the second half of games. They led the Blues 29-0 and the Hurricanes 32-13 and only just managed to hold on to win before they squandered a 24-point lead against the Rebels last weekend.
The Highlanders were bottom of the Super 12 in 1997 but that was a young squad and there were clear signs of improvement, which were displayed when they vaulted to the semi-finals in 1998 and the final in 1999.
This season's squad included 12 past or present All Blacks, some in the twilight of their careers, and that is a major concern for the Highlanders as they try to regroup for the 2014 campaign.