Kiwi coaches set the standard
August 2, 2012
Will Sharks coach John Plumtree (left) or his Chiefs counterpart Dave Rennie be celebrating Super Rugby glory on Saturday night? © Getty Images
While the Sharks could upset the odds and claim the Super Rugby title against the Chiefs on Saturday night, in one respect New Zealand cannot fail to lose.
The two coaches vying for the title are both Kiwis and no matter the result at the Waikato Stadium, the New Zealand coaching fraternity is set to extend its power and influence yet further. The glittering trail of success has already seen Graham Henry orchestrate the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup triumph, Robbie Deans steer the Wallabies to the latest Tri-Nations crown and Warren Gatland guide Wales to the Six Nations title.
Add to this Joe Schmidt's Heineken Cup success with Leinster, John Mitchell's Currie Cup win with Lions and Gordon Tietjens latest HSBC Sevens World Series success with New Zealand and it is clear why New Zealand coaching prowess is in high demand.
But Rennie, the first coach to make it to the final in his first year on the Super Rugby stage, only had praise for his players and was totally on the task in hand as he contemplated the biggest game of his coaching career that has included National Provincial Championship and IRB Junior World Cup Finals.
"On paper we might not be as flash as other teams in this competition, but we've got guys who are prepared to hit a lot of rucks and make a lot of tackles, and do that graft," said Rennie. " We selected players with that work ethic in mind, and so they work hard off the track."
However Rennie, who has named an unchanged side for the game, didn't stereotype his operation as merely workers willing to get the job done. "We also spend a lot of time on analysis, spending time with players doing one-on-ones, we put a lot of detail into our reviews and previews," he said.
"Our players play a real big part of that, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter what us coaches know, it's what the players know and understand. Our leaders have really grown, it was an area of focus for us, and given was the key reason we selected co-captains, while players behind them have grown as well."
Plumtree was also quick to credit the effort of his odds-defying side who have already beaten the Australian Conference champions the Reds and their South African counterparts the Stormers on their way to Saturday's showdown. "I'm really positive about this team and the future," he said. "They've been outstanding in the last couple of weeks, the character and leadership has really grown."
Rennie took the coaching honours when these two sides met during the regular season with the Chiefs claiming an 18-12 victory but Plumtree, who has drafted fullback Patrick Lambie and centre Paul Jordaan into his line-up, is not reading too much into that result as his side look to break a run of three final defeats.
"We were in that contest with a few minutes to go and I think we're a better side now than we were then," said Plumtree. "No one's probably expected us to get to this point. We're doing it the hard way, it's galvanising us, it's giving us confidence."
Chiefs: Robbie Robinson; Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Sonny Bill Williams, Asaeli Tikoirotuma; Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Sona Taumalolo, Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Craig Clarke, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer, Kane Thompson
Replacements: Hika Elliot, Ben Afeaki, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Jackson Willison, Lelia Masaga
Sharks: Pat Lambie; Louis Ludik, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo; Frederic Michalak, Charl McLeod; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Anton Bresler, Keegan Daniel (capt), Marcell Coetzee, Ryan Kankowski
Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Steven Sykes, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen
Referee: Steve Walsh (Aus)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (SA), Keith Brown (NZ)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.