South Canterbury have right man - chairman

South Canterbury Rugby Union chairman Brent Isbister is confident the right man was appointed to coach the Heartland team in 2014.

Incumbent Chester Scott beat off strong challenges from former Highlanders assistant coach Barry Matthews and former All Black Victor Simpson, surprising some local rugby pundits.

Isbister said the three independent panel members were unanimous that Scott should be the coach and the union agreed.

"They each had marking sheets and went to separate corners of the room and all came up with the same result."

The conspiracy theorists were wrong. Anyone querying the integrity of the panel was doing so without foundation, he said.

Isbister said while the union had a philosophy of developing local coaches, no instruction had been given to the panel or discussed by the board, that the job should go to a local.

"The panel were provided with a job description, the coaches' CVs and asked to make a recommendation."

Matthews however claims he was told by by the panel chair Dave Perrin he was not local enough.

"It's a kick in the teeth really after playing 97 games for South Canterbury, to be told you are not a local."

Matthews said while he lived out of the province he had indicated he was selling his farm and was likely to return.

"I helped out with both Waimate and Roncalli last year, my heart has always been in South Canterbury."

Simpson said he was told by Perrin that basically he was too advanced for South Canterbury rugby. The former All Black said he took it on the chin but believed Matthews should have got the job.

"Eight times he has never been outside a semi-final in Heartland and divisional rugby, that is an outstanding record."

Simpson said if they wanted to reappoint Scott they should have done that without wasting the other candidates' time.

Isbister defended Perrin by stating there were always two sides to a conversation. Isbister said he had earlier declared a conflict of interest as he was from the same club as Scott and had been coached by him.

"That's why I wasn't on the panel and Grant Norton was."

Isbister said any queries regarding Perrin's relationship with Scott were also without foundation.

"Dave's probably the best qualified person in the South Island to be on the panel."

Isbister confirmed that Scott and Perrin had a history together, but Perrin had dealt with most coaches at representative level in the South Island. "In the end the union had full confidence in the panel and their decision."

Perrin did not return calls.

Matthews' supporters point out that when he was with North Otago over three seasons they made the top four each time and also won the Meads Cup, the top honour in the Heartland Championships.

Scott has never finished better than fifth in the Heartland Championships after four years with the team, two in charge and two as assistant to Simon Scott.

By contrast, South Canterbury have only made it once into the top four, under Ken Wills and Barry Fairbrother back in 2009.

This was despite the union's size and playing numbers compared with other Heartland provinces.

Isbister said the panel would have considered each coaches' success record.

"No doubt they would have had a view but the strong emphasis was on the plan going forward."

Matthews had also named Grant McFarlane as his assistant and had a manager in place.

Simpson was going in with Mark Meates, who he coached New Zealand Universities with and also spent a year in Japan.

Scott had not named an assistant but is understood to be favouring South Canterbury Sevens coach Gareth Burgess, with confirmation likely before Christmas.

Isbister had previous stated the interview focus was on the head coach only, not the package.

Scott has been appointed for two years but will also face a review of his performance after 2014 season.

The Timaru Herald