Who’d be a pro­fes­sional coach?


The Hur­ri­canes-Blues Su­per Rugby game over the week­end was truly a tale of two coaches.

At the helm of the Blues was John Kir­wan, who went through the agony of watch­ing his team squan­der an­other strong po­si­tion to go down 30-23.

On the other bench was Hur­ri­canes coach Chris Boyd, whose team have now put to­gether four straight wins, their best start to a Su­per sea­son in the 20 years of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Kir­wan is go­ing through the hell that many coaches en­dure at some point.

It’s not that JK has ever built a par­tic­u­larly good coach­ing record, but in 2015 it has been di­a­bol­i­cal.

Kir­wan be­gan coach­ing in 2001, when he was an as­sis­tant coach with the Blues.

He took over run­ning the Ital­ian team in 2002 and though he had a cou­ple of good re­sults – wins over Wales in 2003 and Scot­land in 2004 – he was sacked af­ter Italy went through the 2005 Six Na­tions com­pe­ti­tion win­less.

He moved on to Ja­pan, an­other min­now of world rugby. Kir­wan an­nounced he wanted the Ja­panese to play with ‘‘ Samu­rai Spirit’’.

But he didn’t have much to show for five sea­sons with Ja­pan, ex­cept per­haps a 12-12 draw with Canada in 2007.

De­spite that un­re­mark­able record, he walked into the Blues job, which has been a poi­soned chal­ice for sev­eral years (think David Nu­ci­fora and Pat Lam).

Dur­ing 2013, his first sea­son with the Blues, Kir­wan was as­sisted by Gra­ham Henry, but still could man­age only a six wins10 losses record. In 2014, there were seven wins and nine losses, the worst record of the New Zealand fran­chises that sea­son.

In 2015 it’s been five straight losses and Kir­wan is be­ing de­scribed in coach­ing terms as a ‘‘dead man walk­ing’’.

Maybe he can draw hope from Boyd.

Last year Boyd coached Welling­ton in the na­tional cham­pi­onship. It was a bleak two months for him as Welling­ton stag­gered through eight con­sec­u­tive losses.

There were some in­com­pre­hen­si­ble re­sults. How Welling­ton lost 31-30 to Auck­land, af­ter hav­ing the game sewn up, was in­cred­i­ble. Later there was an ap­palling 55-7 de­feat by Coun­ties-Manukau.

In the last round of the sea­son, Welling­ton fi­nally recorded a win, over North Har­bour, but by then coach Boyd was wear­ing the haunted look of a coach living a night­mare.

The poor coaches. They’re stuck in the stands know­ing that out on the field a group of er­ratic young men hold their coach­ing des­tiny in their hands.

To the sur­prise of many in Welling­ton, Boyd was not pun­ished for the string of de­feats.

Rather he was el­e­vated to be head coach of the Hur­ri­canes.

Now those grim days of 2014 are but a dis­tant mem­ory.

Boyd’s boys be­gan the sea­son with three wins over­seas fol­lowed by the hard-fought win over the Blues in Palmer­ston North.

No longer is Boyd a dud coach. Now he’s a rugby mes­siah, on the brink of putting the Hur­ri­canes where they be­long, but have never been – on top.

And Kir­wan? Well, he’s down and dirty. But maybe he can take some so­lace from the fluc­tu­at­ing for­tunes of Boyd.

Who knows? By the end of the sea­son, Kir­wan might even be a con­quer­ing hero.

Such are the va­garies of be­ing a pro­fes­sional sports coach.

Photo: GETTY

John Kir­wan: Grim times.


Chris Boyd: Happy days.

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