By John HassettThe Sport BibleNew Zealand coach Nathan Hoffman is making a big difference.
The 39-year-old was named coach of the year in both the NZA and NZPL this week, with a record 14 wins in 17 matches to help the Blues climb to seventh in the NRC standings.
It was his third stint in charge, following the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, and his first in charge of an Australian national team.
His first stint was a disaster.
The Blues lost three consecutive matches against the Lions and Lions lost three straight matches against England.
But this season has been a different story.
The Blues are unbeaten in seven games, and are currently sixth in the tournament, four points ahead of Australia.
New Zealand is currently third in the rankings, but will face the Lions in Perth on Tuesday night, which will be the final test before the final eight matches of the tournament.
Hoffman has been working with the Australian team at the Australian Rugby Union’s Sydney Training Centre, where he has had a strong relationship with Steve Price, the Blues’ assistant coach.
In the recent past, the Australian side have often faced the Blues, but this is the first time they will face each other in the final 16.
“We’ve been in some pretty good positions this year and that’s been a really good test for us, to be honest,” Hoffman said.
“I think it’s good to be able to challenge and to get some really good results.”
The Blues have won six of their seven matches in the series, with four wins apiece against the Aussies and Lions.HOFFMAN SAYS:”There’s a couple of key areas that have been really good in our game.”
The forwards are going to have to do a lot more work with our ball-winning ability and the backs are going the same way as we are and we’re going to be very good at that.
“There are a couple different areas that need to be worked on for the game to be competitive in the future.”
They’re two areas that are in a really bad way right now.
“A lot of the things we’ve been doing this year have been great and there’s a lot of positives, but there’s still a lot to work on.”
“We’re playing with a lot less energy than we did last year, which is probably why we’re losing more.”
But we’ve had some good performances and that was the only way we were able to get to the last eight.”NEXT UP:The Blues host Fiji on Sunday, and face New Zealand in a four-game series on the final weekend of the Rugby Championship.HAPPY HOUR:The NZA team have won seven of their last eight games, including five of their six matches this season.”
When we’re winning, we’re scoring a lot,” Hoffman told reporters after the Blues win.”
It’s a bit of a happy day for me, because I’ve been here in Sydney for a couple years now and I’ve worked with Nathan and he’s been really strong in the past.
“He’s always been a bit open to feedback and to ideas, which has always been the key to being successful.”
Hopefully we can go out there and do that and be successful for a long time.
“Hoffmann’s last job at the Blues was with the New Zealand Under-20s in 2015, but was dismissed in favour of Price and Matt McLean in 2018.”
Nathan is a great coach, he’s had a great run here,” said New Zealand captain Michael Hooper.”
His coaching style is very similar to mine.
He’s really well-rounded and knows how to get the best out of the squad, which I’m sure is a big part of the success we’ve got.”‘
I’m so proud of the club’Hoffner said he’d made a good decision and had the support of the board, but had not yet spoken to the CEO.”
I’m not going to put a figure on it because I think the board have supported me 100 per cent throughout this whole process and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks.”‘”
I’m really proud of what I’ve done and the club.
I’m not going to put a figure on it because I think the board have supported me 100 per cent throughout this whole process and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks.”‘
We’ll be the best team in the world’New Zealand will play the top-seeded Lions in Sydney on Monday night, but it will be a different game.
The Lions have won nine of their past 10 games and have played nine of the last 10 in Australia.
“Our team is really well coached and they’ve been able to win so many games and come back with a great result in this tournament,” said Hoffman.
The Blues coach said the Lions’ best players were coming back from injury,