Straw­bridge to coach Waikato

Waikato Times - - Sport - Joseph Pear­son

Waikato have again opted for the for­mula of in­stalling a for­mer stal­wart as coach in ap­point­ing An­drew Straw­bridge as the next man to lead the Mooloos af­ter Jono Gibbes.

Chiefs as­sis­tant Straw­bridge was named the new Waikato coach for 2019 yes­ter­day af­ter Gibbes, a for­mer Mooloos cap­tain, re­cently de­parted for France to be­come La Rochelle’s di­rec­tor of rugby on a four-year deal.

Gibbes turned Waikato’s pre­vi­ously aim­less but tal­ented young team into one of the Mitre 10 Cup’s form sides in 2018 – fea­tur­ing some of New Zealand’s most promis­ing play­ers (like Sevu Reece, Quinn Tu­paea and Lagh­lan McWhan­nell).

For­mer Waikato full­back Straw­bridge, who played 131 games for the prov­ince from 1983-95 be­fore his move into coach­ing, takes over next year with the Mooloos re­turn­ing to the Premiership af­ter bounc­ing back fol­low­ing the dis­ap­point­ment of last year’s rel­e­ga­tion.

‘‘Hav­ing played for the prov­ince, it is a huge honour for me to have this op­por­tu­nity to coach a team I have strong ties too.

‘‘The key to the 2019 sea­son is to main­tain and to con­tinue to build on the suc­cess that the team achieved in 2018,’’ Straw­bridge said in a state­ment.

Waikato marched to the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle in style, thump­ing Otago 36-13 in last month’s fi­nal, af­ter a su­perb six-match win­ning streak that was only ended when Otago suc­cess­fully raided Hamil­ton for the Ran­furly Shield.

Straw­bridge, 54, has been an as­sis­tant coach with the Chiefs for six years and was part of the coach­ing team that guided the side to Su­per Rugby ti­tles in 2012 and 2013.

In 2015, a scratch to his eye threat­ened his life when he sus­tained a sep­sis in­fec­tion on a trip he made to Samoa for the his­toric All Blacks test in Apia.

Straw­bridge lost sight in his right eye but sur­vived the or­deal and has con­tin­ued to raise funds for the Moto’otua Hos­pi­tal in Samoa.

The Samoan hos­pi­tal’s in­ten­sive care unit saved his life be­fore he was flown home and treated in Waikato Hos­pi­tal.

He re­cov­ered suf­fi­ciently to be­gin work­ing again with the Chiefs in 2016, as their skills coach, and has stuck with them af­ter for­mer coach Dave Ren­nie left for Glas­gow last year.

Straw­bridge and his fel­low Chiefs as­sis­tants, Neil Barnes and Tabai Mat­son, are con­tracted with the fran­chise un­til next year and coach Colin Cooper is signed on to 2020.

Waikato’s an­nounce­ment said Straw­bridge had been ap­pointed just for 2019, so his coach­ing fu­ture be­yond that is un­clear af­ter his long as­so­ci­a­tion with the Chiefs.

Straw­bridge was first in­volved in coach­ing with Hamil­ton Boys’ High School be­fore roles in Waikato’s club com­pe­ti­tion and over­seas, as well as spells with North Har­bour (2003-04), Auck­land (2009-11) and two New Zealand un­der-20s teams that won world ti­tles.

‘‘Straw­bridge is an­other for­mer player turned coach that un­der­stands the pride and the pas­sion in the prov­ince and the jer­sey; we are priv­i­leged to have a coach of his cal­i­bre join­ing our coach­ing staff,’’ Waikato CEO Blair Foote said.

‘‘He brings a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and coach­ing knowl­edge to the po­si­tion and we look for­ward to see­ing him put his unique stamp on the squad in 2019 and be­yond.’’

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

An­drew Straw­bridge will guide Waikato next sea­son.

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