Super Rugby
Calls for Tana Umaga to coach Hurricanes
ESPN Staff
March 9, 2014
The Hurricanes were very disappointing in their loss to the Brumbies (video available only in Australia)

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett is under increasing pressure to retain the position, with New Zealand rugby pundits pushing the claims of former All Blacks hero Tana Umaga after the side slumped to their third Super Rugby loss from as many matches this season.

The Hurricanes were particularly disappointing losing 29-21 to the Brumbies in their first home fixture of the season, with Fairfax Media reporting they were "architects of their own demise: and "a lack of patience, direction, composure, more poor selection decisions and absent basic skills highlighted a team in seemingly serious strife".

They opened their campaign with back-to-back losses in South Africa, but former All Blacks captain Taine Randell said in writing for Fairfax Media in New Zealand on Sunday that "the oomph they showed ... not with their attack but with their defensive fortitude was pleasantly surprising".

"It led most of us to believe that a win on their return home against a Brumbies side that has struggled a bit with the loss of super coach Jake White was a formality ... but it didn't happen and the manner of the 29-21 loss was not only surprising, but disappointing," Randell wrote.

Hammett, himself, said the performance "wasn't good enough", but he added context in saying after the loss to the Brumbies that "we've had a South African trip and played the finalists from last year".

"We need to keep things in perspective."

The context, however, is that the Hurricanes have now lost eight consecutive Super Rugby matches after losing five on end to complete last season, and patience is running thin in New Zealand's capital as Hammett has overseen ninth, eighth and eleventh-placed finishes in his three years at the helm. Hammett has also overseen the controversial exit of All Blacks Piri Weepu, Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu, while Alapati Leiua and Jack Lam, the Hurricanes' best performer this year, have confirmed moves to the northern hemisphere at the end of the season. Fairfax has also reported that Tim Bateman is close to signing for Japanese club West Red Sparks, and Faifili Levave is reported likely to return to Japan.

"If you get the coach right, then 90% of your problems disappear ... it's easy to point the finger at Hammett but you really need to offer a solution," Randell wrote for Fairfax Media on Sunday.

Tana Umaga has enjoyed great success with Counties Manukau © Getty Images
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"And Umaga appeals as a logical successor. Umaga is revered in Wellington - respect and admiration for Tana run very deep there. I like the way he went about getting a start in coaching by heading overseas. I think it's good that he hasn't been a total product of the New Zealand system. He cut his teeth away from the glare of the Kiwi spotlight and returned to take up a low-profile job at Counties-Manukau. But he quickly got the Steelers punching above their weight. He's probably sitting in the glow of the Ranfurly Shield right now, sipping a Sunday coffee, wondering if bigger things might open up down the line."

Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni increased the pressure on Hammett in the wake of the loss to the Brumbies, telling Fairfax: "As a minimum we want to make the play-offs. I know that's still the goal for the coaching team.

"The coaches and the players enjoy the support of the entire club. Our focus has to be on winning next week. We're 0-3. We'd prefer to be at the other end of the ledger. From a board and management perspective we expect them to turn it around. What might happen in terms of next year, quite frankly at this stage it's noise. We've got to get a win. Absolutely, it remains the goal to make post-season. That's still got to be the minimum benchmark."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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