New Head Coaching Positions Announced for Hurricanes and Waikato Rugby
Belfast , United Kingdom - 1 September 2017; Ulster Rugby Head Coach Jono Gibbes before the Guinness PRO14 Round 1 match between Ulster and Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Two roles within New Zealand Rugby have been confirmed. One was a return that was less pronounced, while the other seemed to be the ‘worst kept secret’ in recent memory. However, both new Head Coaching positions announced for the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise, and the Waikato Rugby provincial team, only cement the quality of coaches who are available domestically.

The two men who were promoted, have both been a part of the fabric of NZ rugby. Each a provincial warrior, each an ex-player who transferred his skill set into coaching, and critically each man has been exposed to World Rugby environments. It makes each man, the perfect purveyor of both knowledge, and grassroots understanding.

Jonno Gibbes, up until weeks ago, the head coach of Ulster in the Guinness Pro14 league. What better experience could you ask for, of a man who captained Waikato and the Chiefs proudly.

John Plumtree, the current assistant coach of the Hurricanes, but a former head coach of the Sharks, as well as having roles in Europe and South Africa. That wide base of professional rugby locations, leaves him more than adequate to continue the high standards established in the New Zealand capital.

Each man, and each appointment is commendable. They are well worth investing in, as the players whom they direct are, and they can only improve as coaches–and thus, the skills base of the whole competition which supports the World Champion All Blacks. New appointments that are very close to being second-to-none.

John Plumtree – New Hurricanes Head Coach

  • Born: 16 July, 1965
  • Province: Taranaki (NZ)  Natal Sharks (RSA)
  • Coach: Swansea, Wellington, Sharks – Currie Cup and Super Rugby, Ireland (forwards)
John Plumtree
L to R, Technical Advisor Dan Cron, Assistant Coaches John Plumtree and Jason Holland of the Hurricanes during the Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Waratahs at Westpac Stadium. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Succession is often, the best form of promotion. No external input required, as the head coach is succeeded by his assistant. Almost perfect, and in the case of John Plumtree, he is very seen as a major figure of the coaching group which Chris Boyd built in Wellington.

John Plumtree will take over from Chris Boyd after the 2018 season with Jason Holland confirmed as his Assistant Coach. And by having a level of continuity, the organization did not have to consider [many] external candidates. Avan Lee, Hurricanes chief executive, reinforced the franchises satisfaction in their new head coaching positions announced this morning.

“This does mean that with both Plum and Jason working alongside Chris this year, we are in the best position for a smooth transition to a new management team and new season in 2019. In the meantime, it is important to acknowledge that Chris has done a fantastic job in steering the ship and he continues to keep everyone focused on our current season,” Lee said.

Plumtree was more than happy that he chose to stay with the Hurricanes. He told NZME “We had to be successful and the players had to enjoy what we brought to the party. I don’t take anything for granted coaching at this level it can be a real rollercoaster. My focus has just been to work hard and enjoy my role.”

“Luckily things have been good and I feel I do have good relationships in the Hurricanes. I’m looking forward to the next three years.”

Even with his connections to South Africa, insiders had strong suspicions that Plumtree would stay rooted to Wellington. He knows the men, has ‘trained the cattle’ and is an essential part of the group. A winning group – so why would you want to leave a premier role like this.

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Jonno Gibbes – New Waikato Head Coach

  • Born: 22 January, 1977
  • Province: Waikato (NZ)
  • Coach: Leinster (forwards), Clermont-Auvergne (forwards), Ulster
Clermont assistant coach Jono Gibbes during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Racing 92 v Clermont at Stade Yves Du Manoir on May 1, 2016 in Colombes, France. (Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

The anticipation from Hamilton is, that in replacing Sean Botheray with a more worldly head coach, the fortunes of the MooLoo faithful will be restored. And after major failings recently, the new Head Coaching positions announced should go a long way to doing this.

Former captain, Jonno Gibbes has gone on from New Zealand to Irish and French club rugby. Ensconced at Leinster for half a dozen years, the forwards coach went on to Clermont in France, where he was a core member of the coaching group that reached multiple European Cup finals. Unfairly Gibbes left months before Clermont claimed their 2016/17 French Top 14 title.

Gibbes was then elevated to the head coaching role at Ulster, after Australian coach Les Kiss departed on uncertain ground. It had seemed to be a role which the New Zealander might have retained for another full season, yet Gibbes made the decision in late February to take his family back to his home country.

What was seen as a ‘huge blow‘ for the Celtic League team, is an incredible coup for the Waikato province. He told the UK press “The challenge ahead for Ulster demands the full attention of everyone involved; the management group, the team, the coaches and support staff. It is exciting and achievable. However, I cannot in good conscience give my full attention for the journey ahead.

“My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ulster to date and we’re very grateful for the welcome and good spirit afforded to us.”

At the end of this seasons Pro14; depending on where Ulster finish, Jonno Gibbes will make his way back to the Waikato Rugby Union HQ. They play from the impressive FMG Stadium Waikato, where Gibbes had considerable success. Many in the region hope and assume, that he is the man to return that team back to the winners circle.

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Public Endorsement of New Head Coaching Positions Announced

Whenever new Head Coaching positions are announced, there will be questions over applications. Being a closed-door process, none of the other candidates/quantity of applicants will or should ever be known. Privacy is important, but fans would also like to know that the canvas had been scratched. To see ‘who is interested’ and ‘what are their credentials’.

Nobody wants it to become a ‘jobs for boys’ situation, as you often find in bureaucracy. An open policy is best, and in saying that; those who were unsuccessful, should always feel that they can publicly confirm that they had applied, and ask questions of the selection. That is a fair process.

In New Zealand, the contracted system concludes that for all Super Rugby coaching appointments realize that NZR have the ultimate say. In new Head Coaching positions announced gladly, John Plumtree held the confidence of the organization. General Manager of rugby Neil Sorensen, gave the thumbs up to the appointment. “New Zealand Rugby is lucky to have a home-grown coach with such vast experience in a variety of high performance rugby environments,” Sorenson said.

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