OPINION: After four seasons without reaching the playoffs, Mark Hammett exits the Hurricanes having failed to deliver on expectations.
At the start of the season the Hurricanes looked like a rabble; they were in disarray. Coincidentally or not, Hammett announced he was leaving at the end of the campaign and that was about the time their fortunes changed markedly.
Overall, though, Hammett had a controversy-filled tenure. He wasn't the best qualified for the job, having never held a head coaching position before. He was chosen over Jamie Joseph after coming from Crusaders country.
After his first year he axed Ma'a Nonu and Andrew Hore, two very Hurricanes players. That's the prerogative of any coach, but the line for success narrows when you make those decisions. From there the threshold for success was very high. Hurricanes fans are passionate and the fact is he didn't deliver on expectations he set.
Looking ahead to next year, I'm glad Chris Boyd has got the job because it shows there is a solid pathway for our coaches from club to NPC to Super Rugby.
You don't have to go elsewhere. Boyd has done his time and gained reasonably good results with Wellington.
John Plumtree also has a good coaching pedigree. His heart has always been with the Hurricanes franchise. This management team aren't high profile, but it's good to see the Hurricanes promoting their own.
The Canes never lack talent in the backs: TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Conrad Smith, Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Jason Woodward are all class acts. Their test is always whether they gain consistency up front.
I've been most disappointed with the Hurricanes counter-mauling the last couple of years. On occasions they just wave the white flag. That makes me question their hunger and toughness. They haven't had the focus up front to be contenders. I think a guy like Plumtree can change that.
I was also really disappointed for the Blues against the Chiefs. Right from the start they were chasing a 39-point win. It was ridiculous tactics. They were never going to do that against the Chiefs in those hideous conditions.
The chances of making the playoffs were so slim that they should have been looking at other objectives. They had more than enough opportunities to win the game.
It also says a lot about the Blues' mentality. They are all for the miracle pass and the super play first, rather than doing the hard yards and getting a win.
What they did against the Chiefs shows their temperament and summed up why they finished last of the New Zealand teams.
I was one of the Crusaders' harshest critics, but fair play to them. Without any shadow of a doubt they are the top team in New Zealand.
The Sharks and Waratahs look strong but the Crusaders are our best bet. They've been perennial semifinalists and it's incredibly important for Todd Blackadder that they win it.
They haven't won it for five years with the best squad in New Zealand, some would argue best in the competition. He needs to win it.
On the whole, getting three Kiwi teams in the playoffs is a pretty impressive result, probably as good as it's ever been. It shows very good depth.
- Sunday News
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