Hamish Riach rejects 'old boys club' claims

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012
Rob Penney (left),Tabai Matson (centre), Scott Robertson
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
SCOTT ROBERTSON: The former Canterbury player has been promoted to the position of head coach of the Canterbury NPC team.

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Hamish Riach rejects claims that the Crusaders and Canterbury coaching positions are reserved exclusively for their ex-players.

Canterbury chief executive Riach confirmed yesterday that Scott Robertson has been automatically promoted as Canterbury's head coach, following Tabai Matson's elevation to the Crusaders' coaching staff.

Aaron Mauger, who was credited with Canterbury scoring 21 tries from first-phase ball this season, has been named as the Crusaders other assistant, reporting to head coach Todd Blackadder.

Robertson, Matson and Mauger, who also played for the All Blacks, are all former Crusaders and Canterbury players, as are Blackadder, forwards assistant Dave Hewett and manager Angus Gardiner.

While the appointments of Matson and Mauger following Daryl Gibson's departure to the Waratahs were expected, the decision to skip the process of advertising for the Canterbury head coach and automatically appointing Robertson was unorthodox.

"I'm not even going to defend statements that these positions are part of an 'old boy's club'. We are looking to get the best people into the job," Riach said.

"We said to Scott Robertson we would like him to be the head coach because we think he is ready to have a crack at it.

"Scott has been involved with Canterbury for around four years after first being introduced by [former coach] Rob Penney in a support role, and players value his contribution. I don't think there can be any criticism of this."

Robertson, currently in Dubai, could not be not be contacted yesterday. His assistant's position will be advertised and promoting Robertson should ensure minimal disruption for the players.

Matson, who guided Canterbury to their fifth NPC successive title in his first year as head coach, and Mauger are now tasked with reproducing the sort of pyrotechnics that erupted from the provincial attack with the Crusaders. Matson, who this season was involved with the Crusaders as a skills coach, has been asked to focus on driving the team's attack, strategies and analysing opponents. He will also work with key decision-makers such as the halfbacks, first five-eighths and fullbacks.

Mauger will focus on the first-strike attack, defence and give feedback to the first-fives and midfielders.

"If you are going to give quality feedback to 18 backs for a week, it is a big task and that is why ‘Azza' [Mauger] and I will take over our ‘micro' and ‘macro' roles," Matson said.

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Blackadder, who has yet to win a Super Rugby title since taking over from Robbie Deans in 2009, will be hoping for instant results.

Frustrated with the way the backline spluttered through their campaign this season - and how Dan Carter and Israel Dagg then exploded into form with the All Blacks - Blackadder demoted Gibson to defence coach before he resigned.

Mauger, who played alongside Carter, may be the key to rejuvenating the All Black star's enthusiasm for the grind of playing his 10th season for the franchise.

Meanwhile, Mark Drury, the Canterbury fitness trainer since 2010, has been appointed as the Crusaders' new head strength and conditioning coach.

- Canterbury

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