No guarantees for Crusaders coach after dismal season

Crusaders Head Coach Rob Penney reacts prior to the Super Rugby Pacific match between the...
Crusaders Head Coach Rob Penney reacts prior to the Super Rugby Pacific match between the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika at Apollo Projects Stadium, on May 31, 2024, in Christchurch. Photo: Getty Images
The Canterbury Crusaders will undergo a thorough review of their worst Super Rugby campaign for 23 years before deciding whether coach Rob Penney will see out the second year of his contract, chief executive Colin Mansbridge said on Sunday.

The Chirstchurch-based outfit have a claim to be the most successful provincial team of the professional era anywhere in the world after winning 16 Super Rugby titles, including one in each of the seven seasons under Scott Robertson.

Since Robertson left to take over the All Blacks at the end of last season, however, the Crusaders have managed to win only four of 14 matches and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Speaking the day after the team's slim hopes of post-season play were snuffed out by a win for Fijian Drua, Mansbridge said Penney's future would depend on the results of a review conducted by an external company.

"We will do a review," Mansbridge told Stuff media.

"We've got to make sure we focus on doing a really quality review. It's going to be performance focused, it will be focused on what we can do better. We won't be scapegoating anyone and we won't be making any knee-jerk reactions."

As well as losing Robertson, the Crusaders also ended up with rookie players in key positions after the departure of All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo'unga and totemic lock Sam Whitelock.

Mansbridge conceded there had been grumbles about team selections during the season but said that was entirely normal in an organisation that expected success.

"If they weren't doing that, they probably shouldn't be in the environment in the first place," he said.

Penney's previous head coaching job ended halfway through the worst season in the history of the New South Wales Waratahs, who suffered the ignominy of going through 2021 without a win.

The 60-year-old said it had been a bit frustrating watching the Crusaders produce their best performances in their final two games, including a win over the title-chasing Auckland Blues.

"I never doubted them for a moment," he said of his players after the 43-10 win over Moana Pasifika in their final game of the season on Friday.

"The only hiccup for us has been at the end of the game, we haven't quite got the points going the right way. We've had six games we've been within seven (points), two games we've lost on fulltime and one in extra time.

"There've just been moments where we've made errors, and it's been catastrophic ones."