Back to basics for struggling Manawatu Turbos

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 06/12/2013
Jason O'Halloran
TURBOS COACH: Jason O'Halloran.

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Jason O'Halloran will be head coach of the Manawatu Turbos for at least the next two years.

He has signed up for his second term after having been head coach for the past two seasons.

"I was pretty keen to stay, happy to be on board," he said.

O'Halloran, 41, has lot more development work to do with the team.

And applications close today for the vacant position of assistant coach to replace Wesley Clarke. An appointment is unlikely to be made before the end of the year.

O'Halloran joined the Manawatu Rugby Union in November 2007 after two years coaching the Kubota Spears in Japan, as the academy manager. In 2010 he coached Manawatu B and in 2011-12 was the Turbos' attack and then assistant coach under Dave Rennie.

At a bare minimum the Turbos must reach the semifinals of the Championship division next season.

O'Halloran is clear on where the Turbos need to improve on the field, and much of it is basic rugby strategy.

Statistics provided by the New Zealand Rugby Union across the top forms of the game bear that out.

O'Halloran said it must start with the set piece, get the team going forward, get the defensive systems sorted out and convert line breaks into tries.

"That is what wins and loses games. We have to go forward and maintain the ball through multiple phases."

The top sides had a lot of time in possession, whereas the Turbos were way down the list.

They averaged only 121 passes per game, which was up from 108 in 2012.

"It is still not where I wanted it to be. We've got to play footy."

Tasman, for instance, averaged 150 passes per game.

The Turbos had possession of the ball for only 14mins 22secs per game.

Then there was the lineout, which this season was an abomination.

Officially they won 70 per cent of their throws, but in reality, because of the poor quality of ball they won, it would have been 50 per cent of usable ball at best.

And when the lineout melted down, as it did against Wellington, it was almost a direct cause of heavy defeats.

This year the defensive system had to be rapidly altered after it was badly exposed in the first competition game against Hawke's Bay,which was lost 45-18 at Napier.

Registering four wins might have been the second best season since it all started in 2006. But in O'Halloran's mind it wasn't good enough.

He is optimistic the Turbos will have a larger early-season window with at least two weekends of double-header club matches at Easter and Queen's Birthday weekend to shorten the season.

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That should give him time for three pre-season matches and a training camp.

For now he is not out to contract more players, aside perhaps for promising young speedster Newton Tudreu. Lock Fraser Stone has recently had an operation to his troubled elbow.

From now on most players who want to break in to the Turbos will have to test themselves in club rugby.

- Manawatu Standard

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