Japan coach Jamie Joseph will replace Filo Tiatia as head coach of the Sunwolves, the side announced Friday.
The move follows the consolidation of the team’s operations and an alignment of high-performance structures, after a review of the team’s first two seasons in Super Rugby.
The Sunwolves have won three, drawn one and lost 26 games in their short history, prompting SANZAAR — the body that runs rugby in the Southern Hemisphere — to take a more proactive role in how the team is run.
The side has undergone significant structural reform that has seen responsibility for the Sunwolves’ operations move from the Japan Rugby Football Union to the Japan Super Rugby Association.
“In recent weeks following this restructure, JSRA has made considerable changes to the organization to comply with the conditions of participation in the tournament,” the team said in a press release.
“Following this change, current Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia has decided to pursue a coaching career elsewhere.”
Tiatia was assistant coach in the team’s inaugural season before taking over from Mark Hammett for the 2017 campaign.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tokyo and I am proud of my two years with the Sunwolves,” Tiatia said. “I am saddened to be leaving the coaching team after establishing what I believe was a stronger performance this season.”
Tiatia has a long involvement with Japanese rugby having played and coached with Toyota Verblitz and Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase paid tribute to the 46-year-old former All Black.
“Under Tiatia’s leadership, the Sunwolves have established their style of play and their place in one of the toughest rugby competitions in the world.
“We are grateful for his wonderful contribution to the Sunwolves, acknowledging that establishing a team in a competition as tough as Super Rugby has come with some challenges. We would like to wish Filo and his family all the very best with his future coaching roles.”
Joseph coached the Highlanders to the 2015 Super Rugby title and will now double up as coach of both the Brave Blossoms and the Sunwolves.
“Firstly I would like to thank Filo for his huge contribution to the Sunwolves and Japanese rugby,” the former New Zealand and Japan international said.
“Filo has been an integral part in the development of our Japanese players as we prepare for the World Cup in 2019.
“As the new head coach, I understand the responsibility of coaching at this level. I can’t wait for next season. We have a huge challenge ahead of us but I’ve been here before with the Highlanders.”
While the appointment of Joseph means he will have direct control over the amount of training and playing time the Sunwolves and national team members have, it is understood that the Super Rugby team will have a number of “marquee” players next season who will not be eligible for the Brave Blossoms.
This is to ensure that the team meets some of the annual key performance indicators imposed by SANZAAR.
The Sunwolves open their 2018 campaign in Tokyo on Feb. 24 against the Canberra-based Brumbies.