‘This is a special club to me’: Joseph returning as head Landers coach

Jamie Joseph is all smiles after being announced as Highlanders head coach again yesterday. PHOTO...
Jamie Joseph is all smiles after being announced as Highlanders head coach again yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Jamie Joseph realised after about two months in a desk job that he needed to get out coaching again.

Joseph yesterday got his wish as it was announced he was returning to the Highlanders as head coach in 2025.

It means a demotion to assistant coaching duties for incumbent Clarke Dermody, who had one year remaining on his contract as head coach, but there are no signs it has been a messy coup.

Joseph’s coaching history — including the Highlanders’ sole championship in 2015 followed by seven years with Japan — was too rich for the club to consider leaving him in the off-field director of rugby role.

"It’s nice to be back," Joseph told the ODT yesterday.

"This is a special club to me, for obvious reasons. I played down here and I coached them.

"The job is exciting and I’m looking forward to working with all the guys to try and get the consistency we deserve, and trying to get the team right."

Joseph, 54, coached the Highlanders from 2011 to 2016 before heading to Japan.

After missing out on the All Blacks job to Scott Robertson, he returned to Dunedin to spend more time with his family, and the Highlanders created the new head of rugby role for him on a four-year deal.

While Joseph will maintain that role’s major focus on player retention and recruitment, he has had itchy feet to get back into hands-on coaching.

"I was always going to return to coaching at some stage.

"Once we made the decision to put family first, I was always going to come back to Dunedin.

"When I got offered the job to support the club, it fitted. But in my own mind, I was always going to return to coaching, whether it was here or somewhere else.

"I feel like I’m a coach, as opposed to an administrator. I’ve been coaching professionally since 2001."

Joseph said he needed a rest after his tenure with Japan ended after the World Cup last year.

"But, crikey, two months later I was ready to get back on the grass."

Joseph had Dermody as his assistant for three years during his first spell with the Highlanders and is confident the change will not have an adverse effect on anyone.

"I know Clarke well. He’s gone on to become a really, really good coach. It’s tough. But Clarke is really supportive of the move."

Diehard Highlanders fans will be eager to see if Joseph’s longtime assistant, Tony Brown, will get the band back together in Dunedin. That is unlikely for now as Brown is helping the Springboks.

As a coach

Highlanders: 2011-16, 54 wins from 101 games, won 2015 Super Rugby title.

Japan: 2016-23, 23 wins from 51 tests, reached 2019 World Cup quarterfinal.

Also: Māori All Blacks, Sunwolves, Wellington.