Ieremia defends under-fire Hurricanes coaches

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014
Alana Ieremia and Mark Hammett
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ

ANY ANSWERS? Hurricanes assistant coach Alama Ieremia, right, listens in as the media interview head coach Mark Hammett. The pair are under pressure after three straight losses.

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Alama Ieremia has defended the Hurricanes' under-fire coaching staff, saying basic skills rather than the game-plan were behind the side's faltering start to the season.

The former All Black midfielder said yesterday he was "embarrassed" as he watched the side he played for 42 times lose 29-21 to the Brumbies in their first home match of the season on Friday night.

"It just wasn't good enough. I was furious and it's not good enough for this team, or the Hurricanes brand. I was embarrassed by what I saw," the Hurricanes backs coach said.

"We need to find the answers as to why we put in a performance like that. It's unacceptable, it's disappointing, that's how I feel about it ... it was the most disappointing performance since I've been coach."

Head coach Mark Hammett has faced a storm of criticism in the wake of the team's full third straight loss of the season and eighth on the trot in Super Rugby, but Ieremia said he had his and the team's full backing.

He had heard the allegations that the Hurricanes have become too structured, but didn't agree.

"If anything, it seemed like a performance where we went back to what the old Hurricanes teams used to do by trying to go out of system and try to fix things individually. The error rate was a step backwards.

"That wasn't how we prepared to play and we had a good preparation. It's about finding answers, asking the questions as to why. We need to find a solution to why we were so out of sync."

Asked why a star-studded backline including TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Cornad Smith, Cory Jane and Julian Savea had looked pedestrian, Ieremia said turnovers were blunting their effectiveness.

"We used to pride ourselves on building phases and building pressure, but there were 15 occasions in the [Brumbies] match where there were five or more phases and we only had four of them ... of those four opportunities where we built multiple phases, we got three penalties and a try.

"If you look at the stats, we just haven't been able to build phases and maintain the ball for any period of time this season. Historically, the more pressure we build, the better the backline will function, and at the moment we just aren't getting that.

"We haven't given our attacking structure a chance ... Even in Africa when we maintained our structure, we created scoring opportunities. We just aren't creating enough because of those inconsistencies."

Ieremia also defended young rookie Cardiff Vaega who had been thrust into second five eighth when Hadleigh Parkes pulled out with a shoulder injury.

"Cardiff's selection was a disruption ... but it wasn't the reason why we malfunctioned ... It doesn't matter what the opposition were on the weekend because we were beating ourselves with the way we played.

"We played silly football when we didn't have the platform to work off. When we needed kick the ball, we ran it and when we needed to hold the ball and build phases, we decided to kick. Our game management was all over the place on the weekend and we need to find answers.

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"Turnovers are putting our defence under enormous pressure. If you don't maintain ball and give away ball, the defence is always going to be under the pump."

This week it's the Hurricanes, and their coaches, who are under the pump ahead of a must win match against the Cheetahs on Saturday.

- The Dominion Post

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