Chiefs Manawa assemble experienced coaching group for Super Rugby Aupiki

By Te Ao - Māori News

Chiefs Manawa coach Allan Bunting will have the services of experienced assistant coaches Crystal Kaua and Rodney Gibbs for the upcoming Super Rugby Aupiki.

Kaua spent several years in Waikato, where she demonstrated her ability while coaching at Hamilton Girls’ High School. A number of her former players have gone on to national honours, including Terina Te Tamaki, Shiray Kaka and Montessa Tai Rakena who have gained contracts with the Black Ferns Sevens. 

Kaua (Ngāpuhi) also spent time with the University of Waikato fifteens programme before venturing overseas to build her sevens resume.

The Black Ferns Sevens skills coach and analyst has gained an abundance of experience in the Cook Islands and most recently Japan, while also being heavily involved in the Black Ferns Sevens Development framework.

“We have a platform that is a game-changer for women’s rugby and I am honoured to be a part of the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition,” Kaua says.

“We have a great opportunity to be a part of something special. I love the Chiefs Rugby Club and what it represents, and I want to do everything I can to help them succeed.”

Local connection

“I’m excited to work alongside Bunts and Gibby. We all care deeply about people and we also want to play a brand of rugby that is innovative and inspiring,” Kaua says. 

Gibbs began his coaching career in the Bay of Plenty following a professional playing career for his home province. Gibbs is no stranger to high-performance coaching, being a part of the Bay of Plenty Steamers coaching group from 2013 as the side’s assistant coach.

Making the shift to the women’s game in 2018, Gibbs headed the women’s performance programme and took up the role of head coach for the Bay of Plenty Volcanix. Gibbs has been a part of the New Zealand Rugby Union high-performance framework, leading the NZ Barbarians team against the Black Ferns in last year’s November series.

“It’s a real privilege to be given the opportunity to be involved with the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa team in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition. Coming from Bay of Plenty, I have a real connection with the Chiefs Rugby Club, which gives real meaning to the responsibility we have to represent our region and people,” Gibbs said.

“I’m looking forward to working alongside the management team that has been selected, especially the opportunity to learn and share ideas with Bunts and Crystal to create an environment and team that will produce results for not only 2022 but into the future as well.”

“When you look at the calibre of the players that have been selected, it’s pretty hard not to be excited about what lies ahead.”

Combination of experience

Bunting said it was great to have the combination of coaching experience "that both Crystal and Gibby (Rodney) bring to our environment.”

"Crystal’s desire, drive and her experience has led to her own successful programmes here and overseas making her a lot more than just a coach. This is reflected in where she is right now, being part of the Black Ferns Sevens coaching team. To have her in our coaching group will be invaluable for our team’s growth.”

“Gibby also comes with a wealth of experience, is well established in his coaching, and has been very influential in the development in both men’s and women’s rugby, locally and nationally. The former Bay of Plenty Steamers assistant coach has an excellent rapport with the players and has contributed to the growth of women’s rugby with his time in the Bay and more recently leading the NZ Barbarians on a quality campaign. Being a former 10 as a player, the knowledge he brings from both a men’s and women’s high-performance environment will complete our coaching combination and form a unit that will maximise the growth and development of our team.”

Chiefs CEO Michael Collins is pleased by the coaching group assembled for the inaugural women's Super Rugby competition in Aotearoa.

"Together we have a great group of talented individuals who will complement each other and we expect will draw the best out of our Chiefs Manawa squad. We are excited to see what they will achieve.”