Pivac goes full circle to ignite comeback

AT THE HELM: Auckland coach Wayne Pivac is bearing the brunt of his team's injury woes.
AT THE HELM: Auckland coach Wayne Pivac is bearing the brunt of his team's injury woes.

Wayne Pivac's coaching career hasn't followed what you'd describe as the usual path.

He is back at the helm of Auckland after a nine-year absence - in between he's been coach of Fiji, North Harbour and club side Pakuranga.

It is hardly a career that's followed an upwards trajectory, but after a few years in the wilderness he is back on track, tasked with doing the same job he did in 1999 when he moved from Northland to Auckland.

Auckland were a mess the year before Pivac first took control. The Maurice Trapp-coached side finished eighth in the 10-team NPC first division.

In Pivac's first year they were champions and over the next few years won two more titles, the Ranfurly Shield and brought through the likes of Doug Howlett, Mils Muliaina, Ali Williams, Brad Mika, Keven Mealamu, Steve Devine, Daniel Braid, Angus Macdonald, Xavier Rush, Sione Lauaki, John Afoa and Sam Tuitupou, who all went on to be All Blacks.

Since he left in 2003, the only new All Blacks coming from Auckland have been Isaia Toeava, Benson Stanley and Jerome Kaino.

Pivac took over as Fiji head coach in 2004, but quit in January 2007, citing family commitments as the reason to walk away just eight months before the world cup.

He became North Harbour coach later that year and won just seven of 20 games over a two-year span.

Then Pivac disappeared.

He spent a year completely away from the game before starting again on the bottom rung, coaching club rugby. But when Mark Anscombe lost his job as Auckland coach last year after another miserable season, Pivac threw his hat in the ring, and is right back where he was 13 years ago.

Speaking on the eve of the new provincial season, Pivac admits his career hasn't been conventional. "I've had a difficult few years," he said. "I've had a marriage break up and on top of that then had neck surgery, so I was out of the game for a year.

"That gave me time to have a good think about what I wanted to do.

"For me it was timing and I had to do something to prove myself.

"I guess I still had the drive and the enthusiasm, I had to prove something to myself first and foremost.

"I was lucky enough to get that with Pakuranga rugby and then also the [Auckland] sevens team.

"Things went well there and I've got this job again.

"I'm loving every minute of it and the good thing from my point of view and also Paul Feeney, who has done a few campaigns with Bay of Plenty and Nick White, is we understand what it takes to be successful in this competition and we know about how much hard work is involved.

"We're going to pass that on to the players and make sure they're in the best physical and mental shape possible to do well."

Pivac's time at Harbour was disappointing, but then that ends up being the case for most of their coaches.

The former policeman needed time to reflect on his coaching career after leaving Albany and take stock of what he wanted to do.

"I guess you have to go through experiences where things don't go your own way.

"You have to think about your own performances and decide whether you can contribute and do that in the right way. I think I am a much better coach after that experience. I am certainly looking forward to proving that."

Fairfax Media