Hurricanes assistant coach Chris Gibbes knows memories of his Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby playing days will flood back when he arrives in Napier later this week.

"They were pretty special days ... particularly the win against the French," Gibbes said.

The former lock who clocked up 32 first class games for the Magpies during the 1994, '95, '96 and '99 seasons was referring to the Bay's 30-25 victory against France in 1994.

That victory was influential in Gibbes and fellow Magpies lock Mark Atkinson being selected in the New Zealand Colts team which completed an unbeaten three-match tour of Australia a couple of months later.


Hawke's Bay age group product Taine Randell captained the New Zealand Colts side which beat their Aussie counterparts 41-31 and included the likes of future All Black stars Jonah Lomu, Tana Umaga and Carlos Spencer who is also a Hurricanes assistant coach. During his final year with the Magpies in 1999 Gibbes was captained by prop Greg Halford who was his scrum coach with the Wellington Lions last year.

"Although I was injured a lot I played with and against some good boys during my time in the Bay," former Colenso Pirate club player Gibbes recalled.

However the former Waikato mentor who has also had forwards coaching stints with the New Zealand under-20s, Japan, Georgia and Welsh Pro 14 side Ospreys has been around long enough to not let those memories interfere with his focus on Saturday's week five Super Rugby clash against the Sunwolves at McLean Park.

"The Sunwolves will be fired up after last weekend," Gibbes said, referring to the Japanese team's 64-5 loss to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.

"They didn't fire too many shots and will play with a lot more resolve against us. They will be a different outfit and will see us as a big scalp ... this will be a perfect time to turn us over.

"They will be very physical and very niggly. They will run the ball and stretch us if we are not accurate. We have got to be clear and do the basics well," Gibbes said.

A former Waikato and Thames Valley player, Gibbes, 46, agreed Hurricanes scrum coach Dan Cron has done an outstanding job with the Canes scrum and is continuing to work at getting it better each week.

"As a team we are tracking in the right path. We are nowhere near where we want to be but it is still early days. To play the style we want to we have to keep working hard."


"We are pretty grounded and aren't getting ahead of ourselves," Gibbes said.

He was impressed with the progress being made by Magpies loosie and two-season Baby Black Devan Flanders.

"Devan is a fantastic kid. He is a good rugby player with his feet on the ground who just keeps working hard. He combines his immense talent with a good work ethic and inner drive. Devan has a very bright future."

The Bay's other first-season Cane, Maori All Black prop and 2017 world champion Baby Black Pouri Rakete-Stones, is also ticking the necessary boxes for Gibbes.

"It's a pretty steep curve for Pouri but he working hard to retain all the information and that's all you can ask," Gibbes said.

Maori All Black and Magpies lock Isaia Walker-Leawere approach to improving his game also gets the thumbs-up from Gibbes.

Maori All Black and Magpies prop Ben May was coached by Gibbes in Waikato during the 2008 and '09 seasons.

"Ben keeps tracking and continues to look after himself well. He is still hungry and motivated," Gibbes said.

While Gibbes said it was too hard to predict whether or not Magpies No 8 Gareth Evans would earn an All Blacks recall he said Evans was "in a pretty good space".

"Gareth continues to work hard on those little part of his game, particularly the tackle and the clean. He offers so much to this group and is a good team man," Gibbes added.

The eagerly anticipated clash of the likes of Evans and Flanders with fellow Magpies loosie Brendon O'Connor won't happen as O'Connor was ruled out of the Sunwolves touring party with an injury.