Departing Auckland Blues coach David Nucifora will take up the position of the Australian rugby Union's (ARU) high performance manager in June, ARU chief executive John O'Neill told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday. The former Wallabies hooker will replace Pat Howard, who returned to Australia last year after a successful stint with English club side Leicester Tigers.
The expansion of the Super 14 rugby finals to a six-team play-off next year is all but a certainty after this season's logjam saw two form teams miss the cut. Sanzar officials have been considering revamping the finals, with the most obvious first step being to increase the number of teams involved following repeated complaints that a four-team final is far too restrictive.
The Auckland Blues kept their faint Super 14 semifinal hopes alive with a pulsating 19-17 win over the Wellington Hurricanes in Auckland on Friday. Trailing 16-17 at half-time, the Blues scored the only points of the second period when fullback Nick Evans kicked his fourth penalty to give his side what turned out to be a match-winning lead.
The New South Wales Waratahs face the toughest task of the nine teams remaining in semifinal contention when the penultimate round of rugby's Super 14 begins on Friday. The second-placed Waratahs face the fourth-placed Stormers in Cape Town in a match that bears heavily on their semifinal chances.