Hurricanes still working out who will be Super Rugby head coach after 2018
John Plumtree's ascension to the Hurricanes' head coaching job isn't a dead cert.
That's not to say it won't happen, after the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season. Just that the plan for him to succeed Chris Boyd isn't as definite as it once appeared.
Plumtree attracted strong interest from the Highlanders in 2016 and was linked to a spot on the All Blacks' staff earlier this year. Among the things that swayed him to remain as Hurricanes assistant was a deal he and longtime coaching partner Boyd struck back in 2014.
"When he was coaching in Ireland with Joe Schmidt and we got our heads together - when there was going to be a change in the Hurricanes - the understanding I had with him was that he wouldn't run against me as the head coach. We agreed on a timeframe [about] when it was my turn to finish and his turn to take over and that's still in place," Boyd said in May.
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When Plumtree turned the Highlanders' head coach job down last year, in favour of extending his deal with the Hurricanes, the expectation was that the top job would be his from 2019. However, Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee couldn't confirm that was still the case.
"Both he [Boyd] and John Plumtree, both of their current contracts finish at 2018, so I've been talking to both of them about what that might look like," Lee said on Monday.
"They've both got options, but they both love coaching the Hurricanes and, if the truth be known, they'd both like to stay here. So I've just got to work through a bit of that with the two of those guys and New Zealand Rugby - because they're contracted to New Zealand Rugby - in terms of what's best for the Hurricanes and then we'll go from there."
Boyd and Plumtree have worked together since 2003, largely with the latter as head coach. The roles have changed at the Hurricanes, where the team have been runners-up, champions and semifinalists in the pair's three years in charge.
In that time they've also helped several players achieve All Blacks status. This season alone Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita have all joined the test ranks, with Ricky Riccitelli spending time in the All Blacks squad as well.
Given their experience and record, there's no doubt Boyd and Plumtree could excel at international level too. Plumtree has already been an assistant coach of Ireland, with Boyd the technical adviser to the Tonga team that beat France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and a former New Zealand under-20 head coach.
Having coaches of that calibre successfully working together at the same franchise is a unique situation. But the pair's complementary skills - and lack of ego - have helped create an environment in which players have thrived.