Vern Cotter ideal candidate to return home for Kiwi Super Rugby job
Throw Vern Cotter's name in the mix for New Zealand Super Rugby head coaching roles.
News out this week revealed the former Bay of Plenty and Crusaders (assistant) will finish his tenure with Scotland next June, just in time to put himself in the frame to contest the vacant Highlanders and, in all likelihood, Chiefs roles.
Coincidence? Not likely. Timing is everything in the competitive Kiwi coaching industry. Cotter is now at short odds to return home and add to a talent pool brimming with quality candidates.
The 54-year-old is highly rated in NZ rugby circles, and would be welcomed with open arms.
Cotter would need to take a significant pay cut but his aspirations to coach the All Blacks should be enough incentive to make the shift home.
In 2011, Cotter was the only contender willing to rival Steve Hansen for the All Blacks top job, missing out due to a lack of international experience and NZ Rugby's preference for continuity.
"They've gone with continuity and you have to respect that," Cotter said at the time. "If I get an opportunity to coach New Zealand, or another country it would seem, I'm prepared and ready to do a good job of it."
Cotter's pitch included that he would bring on board Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as his All Blacks assistant. Now the pair are both favoured to return to New Zealand next year.
Tony Brown takes the reins at the Highlanders next year - but only for one season before joining Jamie Joseph in Japan. And after next season, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is expected to pursue an overseas post.
That scenario would leave two job openings, and Cotter's credentials leave him well placed to contest both rare, plum roles alongside Schmidt.
During his decade-long stay in Europe, Cotter has savoured success. He transformed French club Clermont Auvergne, leading them to the Top 14 final in 2010, breaking a 74-year drought in the process.
After missing out on the All Blacks job he then heeded advice for intentional experience, joining Scotland in 2014. Cotter guided the Scots to the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup, a result that could have been better but for a controversial offside penalty awarded to the Wallabies by referee Craig Joubert in the last minute of the 35-34 defeat.
Cotter guided Scotland to victories over Italy and France and score 11 tries in this year's Six Nations campaign.
Criteria for contesting the All Blacks job will not be lost on Cotter or Schmidt.
Head coach candidates must either have been involved in New Zealand rugby for at least 12 months prior to the vacancy, or complete a minimum of three years cumulatively with any Kiwi teams.
Moving back to New Zealand and securing a Super Rugby role would seemingly put both Cotter and Schmidt well in the frame to replace Hansen after the 2019 World Cup, either individually, or as a pair as they attempted five years ago.
- Sunday Star Times