Highlanders make it clear Joseph will stay

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James Mortimer     18 Apr 2013     Getty Images

What has no doubt amplified the Highlanders difficulties is the expectation heaped on them pre-season, with more All Blacks coming on board an already formidable roster, but the tough cut throat nature of the competition, and New Zealand Conference, always seems to hang around one franchise.

This year that mantle has dropped onto the Highlanders - continuing a theme where one kiwi side struggle amongst what is generally regarded as the strongest conference of franchises.

Joseph, who led the Highlanders to record seven from nine starts in 2011 and 2012, has another year to run on his contract after this campaign, and Highlanders general manager Roger Clark told the Otago Daily Times the former All Blacks back row forward (30 Tests) would remain on board with the team.

So much has changed for the positive in the Deep South in recent years, and now another challenge needs to be started down by the proud region, and Clark gave Joseph his full backing.

"We picked him up a couple of years ago and re-signed him for another couple of years last year because of the results he has managed over the past couple of years," he said.

"Nothing has changed with that. The bottom line is the board and myself have got every confidence in Jamie. If anyone can turn it around then he can."

The Highlanders, who had the unwanted record of having the most 'close' finishes of any team in 2011 and 2012 despite their rampant start to those seasons, have lost their last five matches by less than 12 points, including a one point loss to the Reds and a four point defeat to the Hurricanes.

Clark said this showed the hardworking team was closing on that elusive win.

"We are not far off. And the thing is, with this competition, it is incredibly tough. If you are even 5% off your game then you will be found out," he said.