Highlanders land former Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd in mentoring role

  • Widely respected coach will be on hand to help Clarke Dermody
  • ‘Buck stops’ with Dermody but Boyd will provide ‘robust’ advice when needed
  • Appointment mirrors Boyd’s consultancy role with UK club Northampton

The Highlanders have significantly bolstered their coaching resources by recruiting Chris Boyd as a mentor role for Clarke Dermody.

Boyd, 64, guided the Hurricanes to their only Super Rugby title in 2016 but left New Zealand in 2018 to join Northampton.

He was feared lost to the New Zealand game but the Highlanders have turned to Boyd to help Dermody as he embarks on his first year as head coach.

Speaking from the UK on Wednesday evening, NZ time, Boyd outlined his role with the impressive detail and candour that marked his Hurricanes tenure, while Dermody revealed that Boyd had already helped him to build his new coaching team.

That partnership bodes well for the Highlanders despite their obvious challenges, and having kept a close eye on Super Rugby while in the UK Boyd saw plenty of potential.

“When Clarke talked to me about the key strands, the DNA that is going make up the Highlanders, and we looked at what’s important to him and I related that to what I’ve been able to do in the northern hemisphere with Northampton, and I went back and had a look at his roster….I would be very disappointed if the Highlanders didn’t have significant growth in their onfield game,” Boyd said.

Boyd will still be based in Wellington but said he would spend about one or two weeks a month in Dunedin.

“I don’t think you can get away from human interaction to get proper connections with people and understand the dynamics of an organization properly,” he said. “There’ll be a good chunk of time flying from Wellington in reasonably large blocks.

Chris Boyd has spent the past four years as director of rugby with Northampton.

INPHO/Rogan Thomson/Photosport

Chris Boyd has spent the past four years as director of rugby with Northampton.

“My job is to support Derms and the coaching group, and he gives me any projects he wants me to do then I can do them, but I can’t really get a feel for that through a screen. I need to be active on the ground.”

Boyd will retain a consultancy role with Northampton, but said a lot of that work would be done remotely.

“The Saints is likely to be three trips north and the rest will be staying connected. As an example, all the meetings that they’re having at the moment and the early preseason and all their preseason trainings they’re videoing and sending it to me.”

Boyd’s stature and his fresh set of eyes will be resources that Dermody can tap into during his first year as head coach, but Boyd said the lines of responsibility between the pair were crystal clear from the outset.

“The first thing you need to understand is that I have no power or authority,” Boyd said. “Zero.

“So, every single decision that gets made I can give Clarke counsel. I can be reasonably forceful if I want to, or I can be as soft as asking him a few questions that might guide his thinking with challenges thinking to think in a slightly different way.

“But when it comes to decision making, perhaps the only decision though might be involved is which weeks I’m going to Dunedin.

“When I’m on the ground, If he wants me to do A, I’ll do A. If he wants me to deal with B, I’ll deal with B. If he wants my opinion on C, he’ll get it

“We already have a pretty good understanding that we need to be robust and honest with each other, which I think we will be.

Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody has praised the appointment of Chris Boyd.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody has praised the appointment of Chris Boyd.

“So, he’ll get it in the belly, not in the back. But there is absolutely zero power or authority in the position whatsoever.”

Dermody said he was on the same page. “It’s keeping an eye for the speed bumps that are coming that potentially a young coach might not see but that Chris has seen,” Dermody said.

“He can help direct us through that. He’s here for advice, he’s not he’s not here to lead the program. So, well and truly the buck stops with me but being able to use Chris and the other coaches to help out is going to be hugely valuable through the year.”

The Highlanders still have gaps to fill in their coaching team for 2023, although Otago coach Tom Donnelly looks like the outstanding candidate to take on the vacant forwards role.

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