Coach­ing change pos­si­ble in ‘open’ Sil­ver Ferns re­view Joseph, Brown face tough home­com­ing

The Southland Times - - SPORT - AN­DREW VOERMAN RICHARD KNOWLER

Re­plac­ing Ja­nine Southby as Sil­ver Ferns coach is on the ta­ble, as Net­ball New Zealand em­barks on a re­view of its high per­for­mance pro­gramme, in the wake of the team’s fourth-place fin­ish at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

Led by an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert who is yet to be ap­pointed, the re­view panel is set to present its find­ings to Net­ball NZ’s board in early June, with chief ex­ec­u­tive Jen­nie Wyl­lie not rul­ing any­thing out yes­ter­day.

‘‘I don’t think any­thing’s off the ta­ble,’’ she said. ‘‘We need to be very open and trans­par­ent in what we’re do­ing. We need to put mea­sures in place which al­low us to re­build and come back stronger than we are now.’’

Southby’s po­si­tion has been de­scribed as un­ten­able in the wake of the Sil­ver Ferns’ ca­pit­u­la­tion on the Gold Coast, where they lost to Malawi, scraped into the semi­fi­nals on goal per­cent­age, failed to make the fi­nal for the first time and lost to Ja­maica in the bronze medal game.

Ap­pointed in 2016, Southby is con­tracted through to the end of next year’s World Cup. In the after­math of Sun­day’s loss to Ja­maica, she said she would wait for the re­view to take place be­fore mak­ing any de­ci­sions.

Wyl­lie wouldn’t com­ment on Southby’s po­si­tion, ex­cept to point to the re­view, which will start in two weeks, when play­ers re­turn from post-Games leave.

‘‘The re­view is first and fore­most the big­gest tool we can use, in work­ing out what didn’t work and where we need to go to from here.’’ For­mer All Blacks Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown may have glanced at each other with eye­brows raised as they dis­cussed the rugged wel­come planned for their home­com­ing tour of New Zealand.

The pair, now in charge of the Sun­wolves, have to pre­pare the Ja­panese team to play the Cru­saders in Christchurch on Satur­day night, fol­lowed by the hard-charg­ing Hur­ri­canes – who will be re­freshed af­ter the bye – in Welling­ton.

It’s dif­fi­cult to think of a more daunt­ing as­sign­ment for the win­less Sun­wolves, a side that splits home games be­tween Tokyo and Sin­ga­pore and trav­els more than any other team in Su­per Rugby.

Joseph and Brown, who coached the High­landers to the Su­per Rugby ti­tle in 2015, have landed them­selves a busy work port­fo­lio since elect­ing to shift north to Japan to coach the na­tional team. The orig­i­nal deal was broad­ened to en­able the pair to also coach the Sun­wolves.

Joseph, who trav­elled to Japan as the ad­vance party fol­low­ing the 2016 Su­per Rugby sea­son, was joined by Brown af­ter he com­pleted his du­ties as High­landers head coach last year.

‘‘They are very well coached, with plenty of Kiwi knowl­edge there,’’ Cru­saders flanker Matt Todd said. ‘‘They will know how to pre­pare for Kiwi teams – as they showed against the Blues [last week­end].

‘‘They have got guys who skin you from any­where, who can keep the ball alive and off­load. So we can’t knock off at any stage.’’

If Todd had said any­thing dif­fer­ent, he might have earned a slap from one of his coaches as a re­minder of never to throw an op­po­nent – no mat­ter their cal­i­bre – a bone to chew on for mo­ti­va­tion.

But the re­al­ity is every­one ex­pects the Cru­saders to stuff the Sun­wolves into the blender.

Even when tak­ing into ac­count that Cru­saders coach Scott Robert­son may elect to run some of his sec­ond-stringers, Sun­wolves have lit­tle hope of bowl­ing the ti­tle hold­ers at AMI Sta­dium.

Mean­while, All Blacks Owen Franks and Is­rael Dagg will fi­nally fire up their en­gines in Su­per Rugby on Satur­day.

While that news won’t en­cour­age a burst of en­thu­si­as­tic ap­plause by the Sun­wolves, the fact tight­head prop Franks and full­back/wing Dagg are fi­nally set to rep­re­sent the Cru­saders in Christchurch will gen­er­ate a much warmer re­sponse from mul­ti­ple par­ties in New Zealand.

No-one will be more pleased than Franks and Dagg them­selves.

The pair haven’t played first-class rugby for eight and seven months re­spec­tively, not since All Blacks coach Steve Hansen de­clared they must take an en­forced break to at­tend to in­juries: Franks re­quired surgery on an Achilles ten­don, and Dagg had to re­ha­bil­i­tate a se­ri­ous knee prob­lem.

Tony Brown, left, and Jamie Joseph face a daunt­ing task with the win­less Sun­wolves.

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