Island challenge for Kilgour

South Canterbury rugby manager Cam Kilgour is taking the next step in his career after being named as manager to the Cook Islands rugby team.

Kilgour will leave Timaru at the end of March to take up his role.

While not fulltime, Kilgour has also secured a role with two Auckland clubs that will be merging.

"I have really enjoyed my time in South Canterbury, but the opportunity to manage an international team is another step up," he said.

"It's a massive honour and opportunity, really, since I am only 32 and often managers are much older."

While the Cook Islands are no rugby superpower and are ranked 55 in the world, behind the likes of Israel and Trinidad, Kilgour believes they are seriously looking to step up over the next few years.

"Both Auckland and New Zealand rugby are starting to help out."

Kilgour will also be assisting the Cooks' sevens team which is heading to Hong Kong to try to qualify for London and then the professional circuit.

"I will be spending a bit of time in Rarotonga too."

Kilgour's first assignment will the 10-day Rugby World Cup qualifying Oceania Cup in Papua New Guinea, where the hosts start favourites. "The tournament winner goes and faces Fiji for a spot at the World Cup."

Kilgour admitted he had being doing plenty of research since his appointment.

"Most of the players come from New Zealand or Australia but they have started to work hard in developing the game in the islands," he said.

He was recommended to the position by Blues professional development officer Ant Strachan, who he worked with in 2005.

The Cook Islands are coached by Barry George who has been involved with Counties as has assistant Greg Aldous and Kilgour rates them both.

As for South Canterbury, Kilgour believes they are due to lift some Heartland silverware shortly.

"Things are certainly going in the right direction and a championship cannot be far off."

However, he does have some things that he believes need to be addressed if they hope to regularly crack the top four.

"The club rugby competition needs to be strengthened and there needs to be better education for the senior coaches.

"Also, I'd like to see loan players come in early and be part of the club competition."

Kilgour said the rugby academy was one of the real successes in developing young players and keeping them in the province.

"There are massive benefits to those that get in but we also put a lot of expectation on them, it seems to work."

He said South Canterbury also needed to work to get the benefits of Timaru Boys' High School and Roncalli College in the Crusaders Region Schools' Competition.

"The Press Cup is a great competition, and we have worked hard at keeping those who do not leave the province for university playing rugby and the more that stick with rugby, the better depth."

The rugby manager also warned close attention needed to paid to the drinking cultures around teams of young players.

"We had (Crusaders assistant coach) Tabai Matson down a while ago and he talked about the dangers of alcohol to the two Press Cup teams and the academy players."

While not out of hand, Kilgour believed alcohol was an issue that needed to be treated seriously.

Kilgour admitted it was hard to be leaving.

"It is sad to be going as it's been the best four years of my life, not only rugby, but what I've experienced in South Canterbury and the people."

The Timaru Herald