Jamie Joseph linked with job with Cardiff Blues
Off-contract Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph has been linked with the vacant top job at the Cardiff Blues.
Joseph wouldn't confirm whether he was considering his options beyond his current contract, which concludes at the end of this Super Rugby season, although the director of rugby job with Cardiff is considered a plum role likely to attract a number of high-profile candidates.
The Cardiff-based regional club are looking for a replacement for Phil Davies, who resigned as director of rugby at the beginning of last month.
With Welsh coach Warren Gatland involved in the recruiting process for the role, reports indicate there's a good chance a New Zealander could be appointed. Sir Graham Henry and Robbie Deans were suggested early on as possible targets, while the names of Auckland coach Wayne Pivac and the Hurricanes' Mark Hammett have also been mentioned.
Joseph told TVNZ's One Sport ahead of tomorrow night's clash against the Melbourne Rebels that his options beyond this year weren't a priority for him at the moment.
"My focus is solely on the Highlanders," Joseph said. "I've got a job at hand here.
"I've got a Rebels game I've got to win. I've got the loyal Otago public here, loyal Invercargill public here, that want to see a successful Highlanders team."
Joseph, of course, will have to start considering his future employment at some stage, though significant improvements in the Highlanders' performances so far this season have eased pressures on him somewhat.
After the dire under-achievement by last year's star-studded Highlanders outfit, this season's less stellar group has shown much more competitiveness and commitment, winning two of its first five games to secure 11 points.
More importantly than the wins and losses, the Highlanders have come together as a group much more effectively this year and, for the most part, have shown the pluck and tenacity that their public wants to see.
Ultimately it may come down to Joseph deciding whether he wants to stay on to continue the building process in the south, or take a big-money role offshore.
If he does go the succession plan might not be as smooth as the franchise would like, with Joseph's assistant and Otago provincial coach Tony Brown admitting today he didn't quite feel ready to step into the top job.
Brown, a logical successor when Joseph departs, told LiveSport's breakfast show that it's a big step up from a provincial head coaching job to a Super Rugby one and he felt that was a transition he was still working through.
"It would depend on what the Highlanders want to do but for me personally I don't feel I'd be ready to step into that head coaching role," he told the station.
"I've still got a lot to learn. I think I'll truck along and do that [assistant role] for as long as possible before I do take that next step."
The Hurricanes' Hammett is the other Super Rugby coach off contract at the end of this year, and could be under the most pressure with Tana Umaga a popular choice around the capital to succeed the former Crusaders and All Black hooker. The Blues' Sir John Kirwan, the Chiefs' Dave Rennie and the Crusaders' Todd Blackadder are all on longer-term deals.