Rugby: Joseph talks up injury-ridden season

Jamie Joseph
Jamie Joseph
Highlander coach Jamie Joseph is viewing the season positively but admits injuries took a toll on his team.

The Highlanders were due to arrive back in Dunedin last night losing 19-13 to the Reds in Brisbane, on Friday night.

The loss finally put an end to any hopes the side had of making the playoffs, and was the last game of the season.

The Highlanders have a bye in the final round.

Joseph said the season had to be seen in the affirmative despite not making the playoffs.

"To me, there are a lot of positives to focus on.

"We played all the top teams in the competition and managed to win nine games.

"And two years ago we had 5000 people turning up to watch.

"Now we are having 18,000, so that's got to be a positive," he said.

The Highlanders won their first four games to sit on top of the table, but slowly drifted out of contention and will end up ninth.

They had a horrendous run with injuries, and though Joseph did not want to use it as an excuse, he admitted it did have an impact on the team.

"You don't want to go on about it during the season as all that does it makes an impact on the guys who have had to come in as replacements.

"But we started the season with nine of of our key players out.

"Jarrad Hoeata had done his shoulder, Siale Piutau did his ankle, Kenny Lynn broke his neck.

"Then you have both our first fives, Lima [Sopoaga] and Colin Slade, fall over early.

"We had guys getting off the plane from Japan, and having to get out and play.

"Phil Burleigh joined our group after being a wider training member with the Chiefs.

"I felt we had more depth and experience compared to last year but with all the injuries we had, then maybe it was about the same as last year."

The Highlanders won one more game this year and will finish on 50 points.

Last year, the side ended up on 45 points to finish eighth.

The loss of Slade, who was seen as the key signing for the franchise two years ago, had a huge impact on the side, Joseph said.

"First five-eighth is a key position, and Colin was a key signing for us, yet he has only played four or five games in two seasons.

"Instead, we had to drag a guy off his holiday, back from Japan, to play."

Joseph was not looking too far into the future and wondered whether he would have a job next year with the franchise.

He has indicated he wanted to return and Highlanders top brass would be foolish not to keep him in command.

An announcement was expected early this week on players and coach signings for next year.

As for the game on Friday night, Joseph said it was frustrating to lose, and though he conceded the Highlanders made too many errors, he felt the Reds gave away penalties without sufficient punishment.

"They conceded 10 penalties when we were attacking, yet the referee did not seem to want to do anything about it.

"Every time we seemed to get to near to scoring they would infringe."

He said in other games the Highlanders had played this year, players had been yellow-carded with no warning and within minutes of the kick-off.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan had spoken to Joseph before the match and singled out players he would be looking for.

Joseph said this was the first time that had happened, and he found it unusual.



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