Hammett falls on his sword

Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:40
Large mark hammett media Large james te puni  mark hammett

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett will step down from the Super Rugby side when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett will step down from the Super Rugby side when his contract expires at the end of the season.

His decision to fall on his sword comes after four years in charge.

The former All Black, who has failed to bring success to the New Zealand outfit on the southernmost tip of New Zealand's North Island and has a strained relationship with fans, did not give a reason for his exit.

He said only that he wanted to clear the way for succession planning.

"This is a decision I have made after much discussion with my family," he said in a statement.

"It has not been an easy decision, but we feel the time is right for me to step aside after this season."

Hammett arrived at the Hurricanes in 2011 as a first-time Super Rugby coach and immediately attempted to install the same disciplined, no-nonsense culture he had experienced in his playing days at the Crusaders.

In doing so, he sacked high-profile players who did not agree with his methods - including Ma'a Nonu and Andrew Hore.

The clear-out prompted international players such as Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Hosea Gear to leave on their own accord and triggered a backlash among fans that Hammett never recovered from.

Poor results did not help, with the Hurricanes finishing ninth, eighth and 11th in his three seasons in charge.

They are currently joint seventh on the ladder after three wins from seven games.

"For now, my sole focus is on the Hurricanes and continuing the job at hand," he said.

"I'm really proud of the contribution I have made to this team and the players over the past three seasons."

Hammett gave no hint about his future intentions, although there is speculation he could take up the vacant coaching position at the Cardiff Blues in Wales.

Hurricanes Chief Executive James Te Puni acknowledged Hammett's contribution to the franchise and said he was 100 percent confident in the head coach's commitment to the team for the 2014 season.

"Mark has worked incredibly hard to create a strong and positive culture here at the Hurricanes," Te Puni said.

"We are looking forward to the remainder of the season and will be in full support of Mark and the team as they focus on their performance."

Hurricanes Chairman Brian Roche said a recruitment process, in conjunction with New Zealand Rugby, would begin in the near future.

"While we will need to explore our future coaching options soon, we remain fully supportive of Mark and the team in keeping our sights on the 2014 priority to continue to lift performance," Roche said.

"Everyone wants the Hurricanes to deliver performances we can all be proud of, and that's where the focus lies."

New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said he was saddened by Hammett's decision, but understood and respected it.

"Hammer has been a total professional throughout all his dealings and engagements whether it be with players, fans, sponsors, and the rugby community," Sorenson said.

"He has added great value to the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby environments; he is a man of integrity and is a coach the players don't want to lose."

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