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.
A bonus-point try in the final minute has kept the Auckland Blues' Super 14 semifinal hopes flickering with a free-wheeling 35-22 win over the Queensland Reds on Friday. Scrumhalf Taniela Moa reached out to plant the ball on the tryline for the Blues' fourth try to come away with a maximum five points and move to 31 points.
Leaders Canterbury Crusaders and the Sharks will be under extra scrutiny this weekend about how they react to last week's first defeats in rugby's Super 14 series. The moody Auckland Blues are bracing for a backlash from the chastened Crusaders, whose unbeaten eight-match record was unceremoniously ended by the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Sharks believe their efforts to remain unbeaten in the Super 14 became more difficult when their 10th-round opponents, the ACT Brumbies, announced midweek that coach Laurie Fisher would not be re-hired for 2009. Super 14 tradition suggests that teams whose coaches are dismissed in the course of any season respond with an immediate form improvement.
The Canterbury Crusaders will field a largely second-string line-up against bottom team the Lions as they look to extend their six-point lead at the top of rugby's Super 14 series this weekend. The six-time champions and the team to beat for this year's southern hemisphere provincial crown are coming off a bye last weekend.
The Sharks put their unbeaten record on the line in their opening Australasian tour match of the Super 14 rugby series against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday. The Durban-based team, along with table-topping Canterbury Crusaders, are the only two teams yet to taste defeat in the southern hemisphere provincial competition.
New South Wales Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie's contract will not be renewed beyond this year's Super 14 season, the state's rugby chiefs announced on Tuesday. McKenzie's five years at the helm will end in July even if the Waratahs win their first title in the southern hemisphere provincial competition, New South Wales Rugby Union chief executive Jim L'Estrange said.
Crusaders coach Robbie Deans is expecting the toughest match so far for his unbeaten team in Friday's New Zealand Super 14 rugby derby against the Hurricanes in Wellington. The six-time champions have looked dynamic in winning their first six games of the southern hemisphere provincial series.
Six-time champions the Canterbury Crusaders have boosted their team for an anticipated tough battle with the New South Wales Waratahs in this weekend's feature Super 14 rugby clash in Christchurch. The Crusaders have the opportunity to open up a potential eight-point gap at the top with a bonus-point victory over the Waratahs on Friday.
After a flying start to the season, the powerful Canterbury Crusaders are giving key players a breather for their Super 14 match against tail enders the Cheetahs on Saturday. Despite making six changes, the match remains crucial for the Crusaders with pressure on the regular bench-warmers to maintain the team's unbeaten record.
Super 14 frontrunners the Auckland Blues are looking to complete their triumphant South African leg with maximum points against the unbeaten Sharks in Durban on Saturday. New Zealand powerhouses Auckland and the Canterbury Crusaders have shredded South African opposition to state their claims for the southern hemisphere provincial crown.
Lack of fitness and a sluggish ability to adapt is holding back the South African teams early in the Super 14, according to Blues coach David Nucifora. The Blues thrashed the Lions 55-10 in Johannesburg on Saturday to follow the Crusaders' equally comprehensive 54-19 triumph in Pretoria the day before.
The new Super 14 season, which begins on Friday, could help determine whether South Africa's dominance of world rugby was a one-year wonder. South Africa provided both teams in last year's Super 14 final -- the Bulls beat the Sharks -- and the Springboks went on to win the sixth World Cup in France.
Unsuccessful All Blacks coaching candidate Robbie Deans has been granted a late interview for the vacant Wallabies job, the Australian Rugby Union said on Sunday. Deans, who missed out on the All Blacks position when the New Zealand Rugby Union decided to reappoint incumbent Graham Henry on Friday, had now asked to be considered for the Australian job.
Broadcaster Alan Jones has applied for the job of Wallabies coach and said he wants to be an agent of change. Jones, who coached the Wallabies from 1984 to 1988, said he did not expect to take the team through to the next World Cup in 2011 but wanted to introduce a more attacking style of play.
South Africa's World Cup-winning coach Jake White has shown interest in the vacant Wallabies post via his agent, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said on Tuesday. ARU high-performance manager Pat Howard confirmed that agent Craig Livingstone contacted him on White's behalf last week, but he had heard nothing further.
Former Australia coach Alan Jones would be prepared to return to his old post if he is asked to take over from the outgoing John Connolly. Queensland Rugby Union chairperson Peter Lewis suggested on Tuesday that Jones would be the ideal person to coach the Wallabies.