Barry Matthews is the new South Canterbury Heartland rugby head coach. Matthews was one of four potential coaches interviewed by the independent panel on Monday, which was chaired by former Otago first-five John Haggart.
South Canterbury Rugby Union chairman Brent Isbister said the board unanimously confirmed the panel’s recommendation.
Matthews’ assistant will be Grant McFarlane with the management appointments to be confirmed at a later date.
McFarlane is no stranger to the assistant’s role, having been the understudy to Steve Tarrant in 2001 to 2003, a period when South Canterbury won the third division.
Isbister said the SCRU was looking forward to working with the new coaching team.
Matthews said he was both delighted and excited to get the opportunity.
“I am passionate about South Canterbury rugby and pleased to be having a go,” he said.
Matthews has dived straight into his role and has already contacted three players who were unavailable for the Heartland campaign in 2014 to see if they will play next season.
He and McFarlane will be interested spectators at this weekend’s regional sevens tournament in Timaru and the pair also plan to meet with club coaches before Christmas.
Matthews and McFarlane will continue to coach the Waimate senior side.
Matthews said he and McFarlane had made a two-year commitment to Waimate which he wanted to honour.
He saw no conflict with his club and representative duties. “I have four selectors who I trust that will go to the other club games.”
The quartet have extensive representative playing and coaching credentials.
Matthews has recruited John Simpson and Nathan Archibald to look at the forwards and Brent Williamson and Gavin Miller will keep a eye the backs.
Matthews said he would also attend other clubs’ practices but not during the week they faced Waimate.
“I’ve already talked to three coaches and they are happy with that.”
Known for his no-nonsense approach, Matthews is an astute tactician, who relies heavily on game analysis.
Matthews said one of the keys would be to have a fit and dedicated squad of motivated players.
“They will need to be serious about playing for South Canterbury.”
He hinted that one or two of this year’s squad might get an earlier call about his expectations around fitness, to ensure they are not carrying excess weight.
Matthews was the “people’s favourite” for the job after missing out last time.
He is also a proven winner at the Heartland level, having taken North Otago to the Meads Cup in 2010.
By Stu Piddington – The Timaru Herald