Offshore pull leaves coaching roles exposed

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014
Chris Boyd
PHOTOSPORT
AT THE HELM: Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd.

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OPINION: Another layer is about to be peeled back from the New Zealand coaching complexion. Liam Napier examines what is likely to happen at the Hurricanes.

Not so long ago Vern Cotter, John Plumtree and Joe Schmidt would have been in the mix for the soon-to-be-vacant Hurricanes head coaching role.

But the high-powered Kiwi trio have recently locked up their respective futures with international teams - head honcho Schmidt and forwards coach Plumtree with Ireland and Cotter in attempting to turn around the troubled Scots ahead of next year's World Cup in England.

Former Wallabies and Crusaders coach Robbie Deans is also thought to have secured a yet-to-be-confirmed overseas post, possibly with a Japanese club, which could further signal a changing of the guard in terms of New Zealand's Super Rugby contenders.

Cardiff Blues' officials will also meet Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, outgoing Canes coach Mark Hammett and Auckland NPC mentor Wayne Pivac here at the end of this month. The timing of their interviews coincides with Warren Gatland's holidays. The Kiwi-born Wales coach is a consultant for the Cardiff director of rugby role and is understood to be advocating for a fellow New Zealander to diminish rifts between the national team and Welsh clubs.

The Highlanders have indicated they are keen to retain Joseph, but his possible offshore move could leave two prime coaching positions open. And should the Crusaders bomb out spectacularly this season, public pressure will intensify on Todd Blackadder, who, despite being contracted until 2016, is thought to have key performance indicators for this year.

After Hammett's turbulent term, installing another outsider would be an incredibly hard sell to the dwindling Hurricanes' fan base. Hammett made some bold decisions to jettison senior figures and those on the inside continue to stress he changed the culture. Ultimately, though, unless his side reaches the playoffs this season, his four-year tenure without finals footy will be viewed as a failure.

The five Kiwi Super Rugby coaching positions are plumb pathways. Despite the arrival of private investment, the New Zealand Rugby Union's influence will largely dictate that these roles continue to be the breeding ground for future All Blacks coaches. Experiencing the unique home-grown pressures and scrutiny is considered extremely valuable.

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Under that premise, the Hurricanes and possibly Highlanders would find it difficult to gain sign-off on any foreign contenders.

The extensive global appeal of New Zealand rugby expertise - Canterbury's Scott Robertson is the latest to be courted by French club Biarritz - also strongly suggests this country boasts the world's best coaches.

On that basis, and with favoured contender Tana Umaga recommitting to Counties Manukau until 2016, the Hurricanes' front office would be hard pressed to look past New Zealand under-20s and Wellington coach Chris Boyd. Dave Rennie proved how successful a grounded and well-connected local guru can be. Boyd has shown similar patience. He, too, appears to have the respect of the established and emerging player base.

Boyd's appointment, along with assistance from the right coaching team, could also halt the alarming player drain from the Canes' region. While provincial ties to Super Rugby distance every year, too many high-profile players from Wellington, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Horowhenua-Kapiti and Taranaki, before their defection to the Chiefs, end up starring elsewhere.

Promising first five-eighth Brandyn Laursen - Wellington club rugby's top points-scorer last year - is the latest example, having moved to Marlborough to further his career prospects.

The Crusaders were savvy enough to identify Boyd's talents in 2012 - with Blackadder approaching him to come on board as assistant. Surely the Canes can see what's in their backyard.

- Fairfax Media

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