The Highlanders’ Super Rugby clash with the Crusaders is coach Jamie Joseph’s priority as he ponders his future at the franchise.
Jamie Joseph has given the clearest indication yet he wants to continue as Highlanders coach next year as his players prepare for a crunch Super Rugby match against the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday.
“You feel a bit of a responsibility about the team,” he said when asked about his intentions for 2015.
“We’re gradually turning things around. We’ve got a good bunch of young fellows so it’s nice to be part of that and help them develop coming through.
“We’re enjoying it as coaches. The players are hungry and they’re working bloody hard.”
Joseph, who will not make any definite decision about his future until the June Test window, is in his fourth year as coach.
The Crusaders are coming off one of their worst displays ever, losing 30-25 last week to a Sharks team reduced to 14 men for much of the match.
In contrast, the Highlanders had one of their best defensive performances last week, beating the Hurricanes 18-16.
Joseph though is under no illusions about the task his players face.
“It was a difficult game last week against the Hurricanes but this is likely to be even harder. But the boys have shown a bit of ticker and, if we can keep it tight, who knows?
“They’re all big games for us. We’re not the sort of team which can look further ahead than the next game. It’s a big opportunity for the players and I’m sure they won’t leave anything out there.”
Joseph said the Crusaders are strong all-round, with enviable depth, which made them a formidable opponent.
“They’ve got a virtual All Black pack if they want to play a forward-orientated game and some great backs if they want to go wide.”
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Ged Robinson, Kane Hames. Res: Sam Anderson-Heather, Matias Diaz, Ma’afu Fia, Tom Franklin, Gareth Evans, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Phil Burleigh.