Mackintosh hoping ‘awesome’ year gets better still

Hurricanes assistant coach Jamie Mackintosh (right) chats to coach Clark Laidlaw at a captain’s...
Hurricanes assistant coach Jamie Mackintosh (right) chats to coach Clark Laidlaw at a captain’s run in Wellington. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Jamie Mackintosh is not ready to come home — he is a Hurricanes man now.

The former Highlanders captain is developing a promising coaching career as an assistant with the Hurricanes, who face the Chiefs in the second Super Rugby Pacific semifinal on Saturday night.

"Whoppa" — the nickname has not gone away since the behemoth prop emerged as a junior star in Southland — first went to the capital as a set-piece coach before being elevated to one of Clark Laidlaw’s right-hand men as the boss of the forwards.

"It’s been really cool, and I feel pretty lucky to get this role two years into it," Mackintosh told the Otago Daily Times.

"I’m grateful that the Hurricanes put a lot of trust in me and gave me that portfolio. It’s been an awesome year, and I’ve enjoyed it."

Mackintosh, 39, who previously served as the Otago NPC assistant coach, has relished his opportunities to forge a second career since his outstanding playing stint ended with 89 Super Rugby appearances (67 for Highlanders, 22 for Chiefs), 110 games for his beloved Stags, and a treasured test cap for the All Blacks.

"It’s been huge. You reflect on everything, and I’ve been involved in rugby since I was 18, so it’s been 23-24 years in the sport.

"The coaching side of things was always something I thought I wanted to get into.

"I was grateful that Tom Donnelly gave me an opportunity to start my coaching down with Otago, and I learnt a lot and found my pathway, and I really enjoyed it," he said.

"Coming to the Hurricanes was a big step up. But it’s the same philosophy — you’re dealing with good people. It’s been a really cool year."

Mackintosh said there was never a dull moment in the job.

He is understandably passionate about the development of the Hurricanes’ forwards and has been delighted with much of what he has seen on the field.

There was a time — and this is stretching back some years, to be fair — when the Hurricanes were considered to be a soft touch up front, a team with a rock star backline but a powder-puff forward pack.

Tyrel Lomax, Xavier Numia, Asafo Aumua, Brayden Iose and Peter Lakai might have something to say if you made that accusation these days.

"Yeah, good luck telling them that," Mackintosh said.

"We’ve certainly got a vision of what we see from our forward pack. We want to be feared and respected, and we want to flip the script of what people think about Hurricanes packs in previous years," he said.

"It’s been an amazing contribution from the boys. They really care about the scrum and the lineout and their physicality as a pack, and they’re all starting to understand how important it is.

"Other aspects of the game were important for the Hurricanes. They always liked to use their skill set to score tries.

"But you can’t go hiding from the set piece. And ours has been really consistent and dominant all year, and hopefully we can continue that."

The Blues-Brumbies semifinal is really the entree for the main course this weekend.

Mackintosh said the Hurricanes were pleased to be at home for the big clash against the Chiefs, and it was set to be a spectacle.

"It’s been a lot of hard work to get here, and this is an awesome week to be part of."

Mackintosh will never not be interested in the Highlanders’ fortunes0.

He felt plenty of personal emotion when the Hurricanes played his former team twice this year, and he felt his old mates Donnelly and Clarke Dermody were doing a good job.

"I watched the quarterfinal and I thought the Highlanders boys produced one of their best performances of the season.

"Take away the odd lapse and that sort of 20 minutes where the Brumbies got away, and we could quite easily have been playing the Highlanders in Wellington.

"I think they had some good growth during the year, and they finished pretty well."

While his blood is still Southland maroon, Mackintosh is enjoying his career progress in Wellington too much to think about coming home.

"This organisation has put a lot of trust and faith in me. I’m just loving it up here, and I love working with our coaching group and our players.

"I’m looking forward to hopefully having a long career up here."