Super Rugby is building into its final stages of preseason, and new Chiefs coach Colin Cooper is looking to build on the solid foundations laid before him.
It’s been a long preseason so far, with a lot of skills work taking place in December before beginning set piece work in the New Year.
If the Chiefs are known for anything, it’s their commitment to Mana in and around the team. Mana, the Maori term for ‘great personal prestige’ and character, was championed by previous Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. It is something that new Chiefs head coach Cooper is keen to see continue.
Colin Cooper bringing past lessons to New Coaching Role at Chiefs
In terms of differences that Cooper will bring; expect to see the Chiefs play a more forward-orientated game, and those forwards were firmly front and centre as the Chiefs hosted their first media session on Tuesday. The group working heavily on line-outs, was evidence of his intentions.
For Colin Cooper, it is a return to coaching at Super Rugby, after a successful four years in charge with the Maori All Blacks and Chiefs franchise partner, Taranaki.
“There is a lot more responsibility and I am probably a bit more ready for that compared to what I was with the Hurricanes.”
As new head coach, Cooper says he is just looking forward to getting the team on the park after a long preseason. “The boys have been working hard, so it’s just about having a look at a few individuals and getting a bit of a game plan sorted out.”
The Chiefs will play their first preseason match against the Blues in Te Kuiti on Friday, but some of the senior players, including All Black lock Brodie Retallick, only returned to camp this week. As per the player Collective Agreement terms, All Black players will only be eligible for one preseason game; against the Brumbies in a couple of weeks time.
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The Chiefs 2018 Super Rugby season, begins properly on Saturday February 24 vs the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Charlie Ngatai confirms impending New Zealand Rugby departure
Charlie Ngatai has confirmed recent media reports, that he will be leaving NZ Rugby.
The experienced midfielder, former NZ Maori captain, and one-time All Black will depart for France at the conclusion of the 2018 Super Rugby season. Ngatai wouldn’t confirm whether Toulouse or Lyon had secured his services, preferring to wait for the Chiefs to release a statement.
“At this point it’s with the Chiefs, I can’t give anymore details at this stage but it’s one of those two clubs.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks it will all be finalised.”
Being able to continue to play rugby was never an entirely sure thing for Ngatai. Just last year, the 28-year old was considering hanging up the boots and returning to cricket, fearing his concussion-prone past few seasons would rule him out of further consideration for the Chiefs.
Cooper and Ngatai have Strong Rugby Relationship
Ngatai said that family was a key motivator behind his decision to leave New Zealand. “It’s nice to be in demand overseas, it’s a new challenge and an entirely different lifestyle.
“You never know when your career can finish, and I want to take my family overseas so they can experience the sort of things I have from a life of travelling.”
Ngatai has played 51 games for the Chiefs, racking up 85 points along the way. A consummate player, that Cooper is extremely familiar with; coaching Ngatai in Taranaki and Maori All Blacks roles. The past lessons and experiences between the two; and other men Cooper has mentored, should play a big part in the Chiefs culture in 2018.
Prior to his departure, Ngatai is expected to play a big part in the Chiefs midfield, linking up with Damian McKenzie [who will play much of the season in the first-five position]. The 28-year old has worked hard to recover from concussion issues that plague his career, so the challenge for Ngatai is to ensure he can avoid – if possible – falling into similar issues this time round.
Michael Pulman is a fully accredited member of the Hamilton-based sports media with the Chiefs franchise. Closely involved in speaking with Chiefs management and players, Mike will report on all Chiefs Super Rugby matches over the 2018 Super Rugby season.
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