Manu Samoa’s new coach, Steve Jackson, remains focussed on the job.
Despite the controversy, politics and hurt feelings surrounding the appointment of the Manu Samoa coaching role, Jackson, who met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi yesterday (see story), remains optimistic.
“My job is to make sure this team is successful,” he tells the Samoa Observer.
“When we do, then hopefully the public will get behind us. And fair enough to them as well, they expect this team to perform well and so they should.”
Jackson’s goal is to bring the Manu Samoa back to the top ten in the world.
“We need a ridiculous work ethic, we need to outwork teams,” he said.
“There has been this idea that if you can stay with Manu Samoa for forty minutes, in the last ten minutes they’ll die away.”
He added that some players had become too comfortable, and that those players are no longer on the team.
Today, he wants to create a competitive culture where the players are “hungry” to win.
The new coach’s arrival and appointment has been somewhat controversial, with the World Rugby Council applying pressure to Samoa to appoint someone it approves of, or Samoa would risk losing funding for their salary.
Asked if this affected him, Jackson said it doesn’t.
“The criticism and things like that, at the moment they’re understandable. We rank 16th in the world and that’s probably the lowest we’ve ever been, and we need to be at least in the top ten or higher, and when we do that, everyone will be happy.”
Jackson said his strength is creating teams that believe in themselves and in each other, and have a healthy dose of competitiveness as well.
When he arrived at North Harbour Rugby, they were having an unsuccessful run at the bottom of the Mitre10 Cup list, but after some time he built a team of winners.
“It does take time to build that, and I’ve only got twelve months till the World Cup,” he said.
“I made the players believe they were good enough, created an environment where not only they were enjoying themselves but they competed for everything each day.”
Removing players who didn’t adhere to high standards of performance and training made a difference too, and that has come through in his selection of the Northern Hemisphere tour squad of the Manu.
But being competitive isn’t all of it.
Jackson said getting to know his players, their families and their stories helps him to know how to motivate them to perform best.
He said he hopes to earn his players trust, and be able to energise them, saying once that is covered, the rugby will follow.
As a self-described family man, Jackson values sharing, and looking after team members like his own sons, and said he treats players with the utmost respect.
“I would never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said.
Jackson is from Ngati Paoa on Waiheke Island, New Zealand and has three sons, aged 16, 14 and 12, and is married.
He said he loves to sing, and can’t wait to immerse himself in Samoan culture to not only enjoy his time as coach but to better know his players.