Hur­ri­canes have ‘ab­so­lutely’ un­der-achieved, laments new coach Plumtree

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport -

You don’t even have to prod new Hur­ri­canes coach John Plumtree. The words just come tum­bling out.

We all know that the team has un­der-achieved in re­cent years, but it’s still nice to hear him say so. With a de­cent enough pack and Beau­den Bar­rett lead­ing a starstud­ded back­line, the 2016 Su­per Rugby ti­tle is scant re­ward for the tal­ent at the coaches dis­posal.

‘‘Oh yeah, ab­so­lutely. I mean we should have won it 2015. That was an ab­so­lute let-off,’’ Plumtree said.

In­stead, hav­ing topped the round-robin, the Hur­ri­canes lost 21-14 to the High­landers in the fi­nal at West­pac Sta­dium. Plumtree can joke about it now, mostly be­cause he and then-High­landers coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown have spent the last two Su­per Rugby off­sea­sons coach­ing Ja­pan to­gether.

‘‘Not tak­ing any­thing away from the High­landers, and Jamie and Brownie will laugh at me if they read some­thing about this, be­cause they still give me a hard time about it. But, yeah, I think we have [uner­achieved].

‘‘When I ar­rived here in 2015 and walked into that room and saw the cal­i­bre of play­ers, it was prob­a­bly the best rugby team I’ve ever seen and coached and been part of.’’

Bear in mind Plumtree ar­rived hav­ing guided the Sharks to a Su­per Rugby fi­nal and been in charge of Welling­ton be­fore that.

Now, hav­ing been as­sis­tant to Chris Boyd, Plumtree is the man at the helm of the Hur­ri­canes.

The first or­der of busi­ness has been break­ing down walls, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. The Hur­ri­canes, Plumtree be­lieves, had splin­tered a bit since 2015.

They weren’t the tight group they had been and the new open­plan lay­out of the team’s of­fices and com­mon ar­eas at Rugby League Park are just the start of the co­he­sion he’s try­ing to cre­ate.

If you lis­ten, and buy-in, you’ll do well un­der Plumtree, with lock James Black­well a use­ful ex­am­ple of the coach’s at­ti­tude to play­ers.

‘‘He was in dan­ger of not get­ting a con­tract so when I said ‘this is what you need to do to get one’ and, when he went out and did it, I had to pick him,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t mind do­ing that for play­ers and I think that’s one of the prob­lems we’ve had with some of the play­ers we had in the past or that we have [now]. They put them­selves un­der pres­sure [to play or be re-signed] be­cause they don’t per­form their role how we want it per­formed and they don’t do it con­sis­tently.’’

Which brings us neatly to Vaea Fi­fita. A lock for the Hur­ri­canes, blind­side flanker is the po­si­tion Fi­fita’s done some en­cour­ag­ing things for the All Blacks. Not least in their most re­cent out­ing, against Italy.

Fi­fita says he wants to play at No 6 for the Hur­ri­canes. Plumtree’s open to that, but only on merit.

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