This article originally appeared on Staff and has been reproduced with permission
Post-season get-together fights. Confidence has broken down between the players and the coaches. A feeling that some all black imports were just “counting their money”: the highlanders’ tumultuous 2013 season was finally empty.
In a candid new Sky documentary, 1-39 HighlandersPast and present Highlander players and coaches, including Aaron Smith, Tony Brown, Ben Smith, Jamie Joseph and Nasi Manu, have discussed the club’s ups and downs since the formation of Super Rugby.
It turns out that the gruesome 2013 season, when Joseph’s decision to hire All Blacks’ mother Nonu and Tony Woodcock’s choice was badly wrong, became the main year of the club’s existence.
Watch every game of the 2022 Super Rugby Final, ad-free, live and on-demand streaming on Stan Sport only. Sign up for your free seven day trial!
Nadir had that season before regaining the 2015 Super Rugby title, and a painful Aaron Smith made it clear that there was “poison” in the dressing room.
“We were talking about the championship before the play-offs,” Smith said. “But it doesn’t buy you a championship.
“… It was not created through hard work and faith and selflessness and your work creates an effort for others or wants to deal with your partner.
Read more: ‘Significant’ boomerang response to Kiwi Haka
Read more: The Warriors have appointed a new coach following Brown’s resignation
Read more: Insulted Mickelson dropped the $ 270m PGA bomb
“Or they were [the All Blacks] Just counting their money? Did they come here just to get a bonus check and get ready for the All Blacks, some of them?
“It’s hard to say, but that’s what I saw.”
Smith also hinted at hateful parties after the season ended, when the bad feeling that exploded in the squad was created.
Shawn Maloney and Andrew Mehertens look back at the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Finals and talk to departed Brumbis legend Scott Seo.
“There were fights,” Smith said. “You shouldn’t fight your teammates. It’s a sign that I knew there was poison.”
Manu’s role in saving the Highlanders from themselves also became clear. Iconic Highlander No. 8 was injured in the first game of the season and was therefore a short distance from the playing squad.
From that point of view, he saw the unhappy building and said that the “dual standard” began to crawl when the Highlanders were not being pulled by the coaches of the All Blacks for mistakes like the young players.
Despite being raised to honor his elders, Manu – already at a glance for the 2014 season – put Joseph in front of him at the end of the campaign and told him how the players really felt and how they could fix it.
At the end of that meeting, Joseph effectively offered Manu the co-captaincy and the rest is history.
The following years saw the Highlanders create a new identity – built on hard work and honesty – that earned them the 2015 Super Rugby title despite not having a single All Black in their pack.
Hooker’s kick sews the coach
The documentary also goes back to the beginnings of Super Rugby, when conditions like ‘conditioning’ were foreign to most players.
The frustration of the 1999 losing final is also covered, and interviews with Josh Cronfeld and Jeff Wilson show that the injury still lingers.
To get a daily dose of the best breaking news and exclusive content from the Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter Click here!