Joseph knows Highlanders job under scrutiny
His contract may stipulate that he can't be axed on team performance, but head coach Jamie Joseph knows his future at the Highlanders will come under pressure this season.
"I guess so, but I would say that's every year," Joseph said when asked whether his job would be under extra scrutiny this season.
"Successful teams are measured in different ways. One of them is on the scoreboard and another is how many guys we are bringing through, guys who were no-names.
"With that in mind there's a hell of a lot of those [no-names] in our team this year. There's lots of reasons and lots of ways to measure the performance of a coach. I guess ultimately [for] the answer to that question you'll have to ask Roger [Clark, the Highlanders general manager]."
It might be unfair to be asking Joseph about how comfortable he is at Logan Park a month before the season even starts with a home game against the Blues on February 22.
However, the Highlanders have borne the brunt of some well-earned pessimism after finishing second last in 2013, extending a playoffs drought which stretches back to 2002.
Losing Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Ma'a Nonu, Colin Slade, Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore, among others, has also left some southern rugby fans with a decidedly glass half empty point of view.
Joseph, however, is bullish.
Ironically part of that is due to a lack of All Blacks, meaning Joseph will have had the bulk of his squad together for most of the preseason.
The two Smiths, Ben and Aaron, will come back into the team towards the end of the month.
"That's quite pleasing in terms of our preparation. Whether we are good enough to play the likes of the Blues and the Chiefs is what we'll be measured on in terms of the scoreboard, but going into it we'll be better prepared than we were last year."
Tasman skipper Shane Christie remains the main injury headache as he recovers from a knee injury, but has made good progress.
The Highlanders take on the Brumbies in Queenstown on January 31 in their first preseason game.
- The Southland Times