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