Ma’a Nonu and ex-Black Sox coach to be on NZ Rugby panel to pick All Blacks coach

Japan coach Jamie Joseph meets Crusaders mentor Scott Robertson.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Japan coach Jamie Joseph meets Crusaders mentor Scott Robertson.

All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu and former Black Sox player and coach Eddie Kohlhase are poised to sit on the panel set up by New Zealand Rugby to select the next All Blacks coach, while current players also have their say become.

NZ Rugby are silent on the process as it comes to a conclusion determined to maintain confidentiality until the race between Scott Robertson and Jamie Joseph is over.

However, crumbs of information still emerge, and Things has been said by well-placed sources that Kohlhase will be an intriguing addition to the panel.

Kohlhase currently leads High Performance Sport NZ’s performance partnership team, which “works with the National Sport Organizations (NSOs) to provide performance and strategic investment, as well as high-performance coaching support [and] campaign planning”.

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Although best known in his chosen sport, the Softball Hall of Famer is no stranger to high-performance rugby.

In 2019, the Blues asked Kohlhase, 59, to work on a project that would secure the flow of talent from their provincial unions to Super Rugby and prevent them from losing talented players to other regions.

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So said Blues Board Chairman Don Mackinnon Things at the time: “Eddie is leading a project for the Blues and our three provincial unions to examine our entire system for identifying, recruiting and developing talent outside of the school, where we’ve been poor, in part because we didn’t agree with our state unions.”

The Blues improved greatly in the years that followed and Kohlhase’s appeal is that he offers a new set of eyes for NZ Rugby.

Things also understands that All Blacks great Nonu will be part of the panel, having revealed in an NZME report last week that he had received an invitation from NZ Rugby.

Ma'a Nonu will bring decades of experience - and a Pasifika voice - to the panel.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Ma’a Nonu will bring decades of experience – and a Pasifika voice – to the panel.

Nonu currently plays for the San Diego Legion in the US, making it unclear if his contribution will be in-person or from Zoom.

The process also appears to be moving quickly, with candidate interviews possible this coming week ahead of an announcement in late March.

Current All Blacks are also included in the process, Things understands.

Whilst the final decision is largely in the hands of NZ Rugby, players will provide input through the consultation mechanism between NZ Rugby and the Players’ Association.

This adds another layer of intrigue to the race, as players coached by Robertson at the Crusaders have an opportunity to voice their views.

Joseph, who has coached Japan since 2016, is a step away from the current squad of players, although his reputation will be well known and likely assistant Tony Brown will be known to many.

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Nonu played under Joseph during the Highlanders’ infamous 2013 season when the manager stacked his roster with All Blacks but suffered a terrible year.

NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson will play a key role in the decision and his relationship with the new manager must be strong as the All Blacks return to the top of the rugby world.

Ultimately, however, the NZ Rugby board will be responsible for selecting Robertson or Joseph and then ensuring current manager Ian Foster gets what he needs for the Rugby World Cup campaign in France.

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