Boyd and Plum; the title evokes images of scones by the seaside. You'd be lucky to enjoy such a scene in Wellington without a brisk southerly, but Chris Boyd and John Plumtree sure have proven idyllic for the Hurricanes, a franchise prone to choppy seas.

Prior to their arrival this was a team that promised much, delivered little. Entertainment plus; little in the way of follow through when it mattered most.

There was that one fog final no-one other than the Crusaders cares to remember and... not much else of substance. Certainly not for the calibre of player - Umaga, Cullen, Lomu, Collins - they had over the years.

Then came the Boyd and Plumtree era. Three years ago, few predicted this pairing would strike such a chord and, ultimately, create New Zealand's most successful franchise in terms of wins (81 per cent with 42 wins from 52 games) in that time. The Crusaders rank second with 73 per cent (35 wins and 13 losses).


On Sunday morning (NZT) in Johannesburg the Hurricanes shoot for their third straight final.

From 'expect the unexpected' to a picture of consistency, they sure have come a long way in a short time.

Much of the improvement must be attributed to their coaching axis that harnesses a unique dynamic, not least for the arrangement that, come 2019, a switch of roles is likely, with the only question around whether head coach Boyd stays on in another capacity.

This informal agreement was at the heart of Plumtree essentially knocking back an invitation to apply for Wayne Smith's defence brief with the All Blacks, one that Scott McLeod will assume after the Rugby Championship.

"Plum has aspirations to be head coach of the Hurricanes and we're confident that will happen in time," Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee explains. "We're just not 100 per cent sure what that will look like. They're at different stages of their careers. They're both very loyal to each other and the Hurricanes.

"Chris has his own goals in mind; he's got plenty of options. He is in demand and he's got a lot of experience in the high performance area. He's very passionate about the Hurricanes, rugby in Wellington and Plum.

"There's probably three or four options but it's too early to say exactly how that will look."
To understand the Hurricanes transformation you must first understand those pulling the strings.

From the outside at least, Boyd and Plumtree come across as the classic good cop bad cop.


Looks can be deceiving.

As forwards and defence mentor, Plumtree's often gruff exterior and demanding approach to training contrasts his balance elsewhere. Behind the scenes, in what is a long season, he enjoys a laugh with players to lighten the mood.

Boyd, with a background in business, having run four Lifestyle Sports shops, takes a managerial approach. He mixes casual demeanour with common touch, but nothing gets past him and he is not shy to hold players to account. Insiders describe him as tactically astute; often the smartest guy in the room. And he does it all without a hint of ego.

Both are staunch family men, learning through parenting experiences about dealing with young men. Both are from the Hurricanes region; both passionate about bringing players through who value what that means.

Together, they complement each other like beer and crisps.

"They've both got really good rugby brains and they both want to win. The way they can break down a team in terms of defence, attack and what to expect week in, week out and how they work with our leaders like TJ [Perenara], Beauden [Barrett]and Dane [Coles] in terms of how that will pan out on the field they're very good at that.

"We're a pretty happy club at the moment but we're also hungry. We've had some success but that encourages you continue in that vein. Three years in the playoffs is a good start."

Trust forms a big part of their relationship. The unheralded efforts of assistant Jason Holland, who helps with attack and kicking, also can't be overlooked.

Boyd, 59, and Plumtree, 52, first joined forces in Wellington and again in Durban - sharing the head and assistant coaching briefs. Boyd then coaxed Plumtree back from his forwards coach role with Ireland to the Hurricanes in 2015.

Initial expectations were not great, given Boyd, while also juggling the New Zealand under-20s, presided over Wellington's relegation to the second-tier provincial championship in a season that featured one win.

Back then, Boyd was at long odds to deliver the Hurricanes their maiden title.

In some ways the pair were fortunate to inherit players with three-to-five years' experience; the likes of Brad Shields, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Reggie Goodes and, of course, the All Blacks contingent.

But a yardstick for their methods is perhaps best measured in the successful transition of Super Rugby rookies Nehe Milner-Skudder, Michael Fatialofa, Jordie Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Wes Goosen among others.

"They've been able to make a really strong bond with our leaders and bring young guys into the club who have succeeded. There's no doubt they've made some really positive changes."

Twenty-one years the Hurricanes went without a title. For a franchise that produced so many quality All Blacks, it was a ridiculously long wait.

In their first year at the helm, after a dominant 14-2 regular season where they finished top, Boyd and Plumtree watched the Hurricanes fluff their lines to blow a golden chance to farewell Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith in the finale against the Highlanders.

It was typical Hurricanes. Only this time, they harnessed the hurt and made amends the following year. Now the Lions in Johannesburg stand in their way of reaching another decider.

Whatever happens in the remainder of this campaign the southerly will still sweep through the capital. But with Plumtree locked in and hopes Boyd will stick around too, the seaside has never looked so good.​

New Zealand Super Rugby team's records over past three years:


81 per cent (42 wins, 10 losses)


73 per cent (35 wins and 13 losses)


71 per cent (35 wins, 14 losses, one draw)


69 per cent (34 wins, 15 losses)


39 per cent (18 wins, 26 losses, two draws)