What’s Wrong With The Hurricanes?

We played silly football when we didn’t have the platform to work off. Assistant Coach, Alama Ieremia

 Hammering the hapless Hammer

By Roger Childs

Mark Hammett Hurricanes head coach, Mark Hammett (Hammer) has taken a pasting in the media following the Hurricanes third loss in the 2014 Super 15 rugby competition. On Friday night the Wellington-based franchise was playing at home, fielding a team laced with talented All Blacks. But instead of the expected victory over the Brumbies, it was crash and burn time with more tries conceded than in the two previous matches in South Africa. Blame it on the coaches?

 In premier league soccer in England, and elsewhere, fans and club administrations are unforgiving if the team is not winning. In 2008 Chelsea reached the pinnacle match in European club football and took on Manchester United in the European Cup final. They lost narrowly in a penalty shootout, but this didn’t stop the coach being sacked.

Obviously, matches in any team sport are won or lost by the players on the field. However it is the coach’s task to set the game plan, ensure that every player knows his or her role and how they fit into the team effort.

If the team doesn’t follow the schedule and keeps losing, the coaches are not doing their job.

Establishing a new culture

Tom Scott Hurricanes Cartoon Mark Hammett is a Canterbury man and took on the Hurricanes coaching position in 2011 after years of disappointing performances by the Wellington-based team. The advertising mantra of expect the unexpected was certainly true. They could play brilliantly one weekend then flop the next.

Local cartoonist Tom Scott, regularly had cartoons during the Super Rugby season with long-suffering Hurricanes fans being the key characters.

Unfortunately Hammett’s first season in charge was not a happy one.

~ There was resistance to the new “Canterbury” culture and a number of discipline breaches.
~ The star-studded team did not perform up to expectations and finished in 9th place.
~ There was tension between the captain Andrew Hore and the new coach.
~ A number of senior players did not respect the new regime.

 Hammer decided that, if he was to going to make progress and instil a new culture of cooperation and teamwork, there was going to have to be a cleanout. Much to the horror of many fans, All Blacks Ma’a Nonu, Piri Weepu, Hosea Gear and Andrew Hore were told they were not welcome for the 2012 season.

 Initial success then back we go

Much to the surprise of the sports media and fans, the Hurricanes in 2012, showed teamwork not seen for years and did much better than expected. They just failed to make the playoffs and finished a creditable 8th on the table with 10 wins for the season.

Tom Scott could at last draw a positive cartoon. It depicted a visitor arriving at Wellington airport, staring in wonder at statues, resembling Easter Island moai, of the dour Hammer.

Unfortunately the team didn’t kick on from the 2012 successes and last season finished 11th.

What went wrong on Friday night?

Brumbies v Hurricanes Was there a touch of arrogance: we’re back home, have plenty of talent, it will be a breeze? They did play quite well in the first half and ran out to a 13-3 lead, but then lost their focus.

There was an excellent team try with Perenara scoring, although there was a suspicion that Jane had put his foot on the touchline. Earlier, they were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty try, when Barrett was brought down illegally as he seemed certain to score.

The scrummaging was an impressive feature of the Hurricanes effort and loose forwards Lam and Thompson played well. However commentators, media and fans alike can’t understand why the brilliant Ardie Savea, an apprentice with the All Blacks on last year’s tour, was not in the run-on team.

Unfortunately the late withdrawal of Hadleigh Parkes, meant that the inexperienced Cardiff Vaega had to fill the crucial second five-eights position. The newcomer’s fumbling and poor defending probably cost two tries. Ma’a Nonu would not have let anyone through.

Overall there were too many basic errors which highly paid professional rugby players shouldn’t be making.

  • Poor throwing into the lineout by All Black hooker Dane Coles: about 7 throws were either not straight or snaffled by the opposition. He was later replaced.
  • Half back Perenara, who played very well in South Africa, threw passes all over the place and was also replaced.
  • Poor judgement on the options: When we needed (to) kick the ball, we ran it and when we needed to hold the ball and build phases, we decided to kick. Assistant Coach Alama Ieremia.
  • There were too many “Hail Mary” passes which were never going to come off and forward passes when tries were in the offing.

Meanwhile the Brumbies played a controlled, focused game. They kept to their plan, built the phases and exploited the Hurricanes’ weaknesses. Their defence was superb.

All we are saying is give Hammer a chance

 UmagaIt’s early days in the season and teams starting badly have often come through to make the last six. The All Black-studded Crusaders luckily won their first game on Saturday and may threaten the top of the table later in the season.

Mark Hammett’s contract runs out at the end of the season and there is talk of bringing Wellington hero Tana Umaga back into town to coach the ‘Canes.

So Hammer is on borrowed time, but has the rest of the season to turn things around. The coaches and players need look no further that the tape of last Friday’s game to see what must be done.