Mehrtens joins the Waratahs coaching team

Last updated 16:30 29/01/2014
Andrew Mehrtens
Fairfax NZ
TAH VERY MUCH: Andrew Mehrtens, pictured playing for the All Blacks in 2004, will take up a new coaching role with the Waratahs.

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Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens says he's not sure how his New Zealand rugby mates will react to his new gig as the Waratahs' kicking coach.

The 40-year-old ex-Crusaders and Canterbury star has joined the New South Wales-based franchise's coaching staff on a part-time contract.

Mehrtens will work alongside his former Crusaders and All Blacks team-mate, Daryl Gibson, the Waratahs backs coach and head coach Michael Cheika.

In a question and answer statement released by the Waratahs today, Mehrtens was asked: "What do you think the boys back home will think of you helping the Australian teams?"'

"I don't know," Mehrtens said.

"I think it's one of those things Australians and New Zealanders and to a certain extent, South Africans do pretty well is sort of export their knowledge.

"Within the context of trying to put back, I'm here in Sydney at the moment and ... have been very well received and I'm enjoying being involved in rugby on a part-time basis and so, it's good fun and if I can do anything to help anyone enjoy similar experiences and a similar enjoyment to what I had in rugby then great."

Asked what he thought the reaction would be if the Waratahs "got up by a penalty goal on the bell to win the Super Rugby title over a New Zealand team?", Mehrtens said: "I'd be chuffed for them, obviously I spent a long time at the Crusaders and I still support the Crusaders but I'm here working with these guys and as people and as rugby players I want them to get the best out of themselves.

"I'd be delighted if and when they do well this season."

Mehrtens, who played 70 tests for the All Blacks between 1995 and 2004 and scored 967 points, didn't need much arm-twisting to work for the Waratahs.

"I enjoyed my time playing alongside Daryl Gibson and I've known Michael Cheika for a long time since I played against him in Italy. I like both those guys, I think they're awesome coaches and I like what they seem to be trying to doing here as well.

"It's just a pleasure to be involved and not working fulltime in rugby now, I've actually got a passion for it."

Mehrtens, who helped the Crusaders win five Super rugby titles, is working for a Sydney financial planning firm where former Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns is chief executive.

"I'm really enjoying being part of a kind of normal working life, it means that I can treat rugby sort of as a hobby or a sport or a pastime and have that balance.

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"I'm just chuffed to be back in it. I've spent a few months doing not much in rugby. The French experience [coaching at second-tier club Beziers-Herault] led to me wanting a bit of a break from it. But, from what I've seen and from what I've heard, [the Waratahs] are working bloody hard and you know, they're going to climb into this season so I'm looking forward to it."

Mehrtens said every goalkicker was different, the art was "finding what works best for the individual, whether it's to do with how you train, or when you train, or what you're doing technically in that or just your attitude, your mentality and your attitude towards kicking. "Everyone's different and it's about knowing the guys and working with them in their own context and getting them driving their own thing, driving their own training and their own kind of self-evaluation and stuff like that, and enjoying themselves.

"At the end of the day there are some pressure moments but goalkicking, like anything in sport, should be about going hard and enjoying it. If I can do anything to help these guys achieve that then great."

Mehrtens scored 1378 points in 281 first-class rugby games but admitted he did feel the pressure when he lined up a shot at goal, "especially the closer ones".

"Everyone expects you to get the closer ones. Out wide or a long way out from the posts, [everyone] is almost ready to excuse you because they know it's difficult, so sometimes, like I say, those easier ones have the most sort of pressure on them because you know you're supposed to get them.

"Every time you run out there's pressure to perform and that's good. The first pressure comes from your mates around you that you want to do your best for them and for the team, so that's what these guys feel and that's part of the buzz of sport and yes, I loved it."

Mehrtens moved to Sydney last year after finishing a 20-year playing and coaching career in France. He made the news last July when a fire broke out in his rented property in Sydney's Double Bay, forcing him and his family to seek temporary refuge with former Wallabies rival George Gregan.

- AAP

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