Rugby: Colin Cooper in talks with Highlanders

By Steve Hepburn of the Otago Daily Times

Colin Cooper. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Colin Cooper. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Taranaki coach Colin Cooper admits he has been talking to the Highlanders about coaching but any deal to get him to come south appears some distance away, if it does indeed happen.

Other coaching candidates appear be keeping their cards close to their chest in what is quickly becoming a list of who is not interested in the job rather than who wants to take charge.

Cooper told the Otago Daily Times, when contacted yesterday, he had been talking to the Highlanders and was continuing to talk to them.

He was keen to coach the side - "as that is why I'm talking to them'' - but there was nothing concrete yet.

Cooper (57) coached the Hurricanes from 2003-10 and before that was an assistant coach at the Crusaders.

The Highlanders were talking to other coaches about replacing Jamie Joseph, who is heading to Japan at the end of the season after six seasons in charge.

With the side winning the title last year and equal on points with competition leaders the Crusaders - but, thanks to the competition rules, sitting in sixth place - this year, one would expect prospective coaches would be knocking down the door.

More than 25 players are due to come back next year so the side has great foundations.

But no-one appears to have come out and said they are keen to take the job on.

Former Highlanders coach Greg Cooper, who had previously said he was interested in the job, declined to comment when contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

He last coached the Highlanders in 2007 and has spent the bulk of the time since then overseas, coaching in Japan. He is now back living in Dunedin.

One disadvantage for Cooper, should he come on board, is that he is known as a backs coach.

With assistant coaches Tony Brown and Scott McLeod also former backs, a coaching team may lack experience in coaching forwards.

Also clouding the equation is the fact the Crusaders coaching job is being vacated by Todd Blackadder at the end of the season. Who replaces him is also up in the air and that is having an effect on the Highlanders head coaching position.

Canterbury coach Scott Robertson said, when contacted yesterday, no approach had been made by either party regarding the Highlanders job.

He declined further comment.

Crusaders assistant coach Dave Hewett was another in the mix, although he would prefer to coach the Crusaders, the only team he has played for at Super rugby level. Tabai Matson is thought to be the front-runner for the Crusaders job.

The Highlanders board had drawn up a shortlist for the coaching job at a board meeting last Friday but chief executive Roger Clark said last week he would not be discussing candidates nor giving details on the appointment process.

With the bulk of the players signed for next year, the process of appointing a new coach does not seem to be affecting recruitment.

- Otago Daily Times

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