John Kirwan and Mark Hammett are poster boys for mental
strength, men heading the new wave of rugby coaches.
They bark at the start of the week, but shelve the verbal
fury coaches have delivered pre-match and at halftime since
the laws changed to give them access to their teams.
Positive stress or positive anxiety are catch cries for
Kirwan and Hammett who have honed their Blues and Hurricanes
for their opening Super 15 skirmish tonight at the Cake Tin.
"It means excitement, negative stress means worrying about
things you can't control," said Kirwan.
"Too many people in this game waste a lot of mental energy.
"The game is 7.35pm Saturday, you can't play the game too
Kirwan believes it helps players to switch on late otherwise
they burnt too much nervous energy.
Every individual was different but anxiety was
counter-productive and should be appeased by the pre-game
"You have to get used to the expectation," Hammett concurred.
"You always wonder what the elephant will be in the room but
that is just the nature of professional coaching."
Hammett is dealing with his third campaign as head coach at
the Hurricanes and an expectation of success after last
For Kirwan, this is his debut as head coach of the Blues,
although he was an assistant to Frank Oliver in 2001 when the
side finished second last.
A great deal has changed since then and in those advances,
Kirwan has enlisted help to guide him through matches.
"I used to get really uptight and emotional but I have worked
hard on making sure I stay completely calm. If I get too
uptight then I lose the vision of what I should be seeing."
Hammett likens matches to weekly exams for the staff and
players. That constant inspection was a tough grind and if
coaches couldn't cope they wouldn't stay around long.
Pre-season, Hammett spent a great deal of time crystal-ball
gazing and working out how to create points of difference for
"It was about how we are going to create an edge and gain the
urgency we need," he said.
Hammett was not fooled by talk of the Blues wearing
L-plates with many novices in this series. Nor was he misled by
Kirwan's lack of time as a head coach in Super 15.
"They have gone well in their trial matches and I am not
fooled by their underdog tag," he said.
Hammett had lost his composure a couple of times during
matches since he began his Super rugby coaching
He had learned from those hiccups and how it affected his
"If you are still grumpy after a sleep and reviewing the
game, the best policy is to have a crack on Monday," he said.
"You will have trip ups, it is how you deal with those and
Kirwan does not favour sending a string of messages to his
players during a game. He will send some but save most of his
thoughts for the interval.
"I will let my heart and instincts guide me. The days of big
team talks are over - we do that stuff earlier in the week.
"Motivation may have to come at the break, it depends on the
players' emotions. Two or three simple points might be
Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim
Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad
Shields, Karl Lowe, Victor Vito, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush,
Ben May, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Reg
Goodes, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Chris Smylie, James
Marshall, Reynold Lee-Lo.
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis
Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili,
Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick,
Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves:
Jackson Willison, Baden Kerr, Bryn Hall, Brendon O'Connor,
Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Quentin MacDonald.
- by Wynne Gray, The New Zealand Herald