Highlanders and New Zealand Rugby have decided not to renew the contract of head coach Aaron Mauger following their struggles in 2020.
Mauger initially signed a three-year deal at the South Island outfit and helped them to qualify for the play-offs in both 2018 and ’19.
They faltered in the curtailed Super Rugby season, however, winning just one of their six matches, before they improved during the Aotearoa competition, but only finished in fourth position.
CEO Roger Clark thanked the former Crusader and All Blacks centre for his contribution, saying he’d worked hard over the last three years to move the club forward.
“Aaron has focused on improving and developing players and, in that regard, he can be very proud of his efforts and we thank him for everything he has done for the club,” Clark said.
“As a young coach with a long career ahead, we wish him and his family all the best for the next chapter of his coaching career.”
NZR General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said: “On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, I’d like to thank Aaron and his family for the contribution they’ve made to the Highlanders club over the last three seasons.
“The positivity Aaron brings to his coaching, coupled with his commitment and dedication, has added to some very memorable Highlanders performances in recent times.
“He has also been integral in the development of a number of Highlanders players and their progression into the national ranks. Aaron’s work ethic will hold him in great stead as he takes his next step in coaching – we wish him and his family well.”
Highlanders under Aaron Mauger2018: 10-7 (includes QF loss)2019: 6-3-8 (includes QF loss)2020: 4-1-9 (Super Rugby and Super Rugby Aotearoa)
Total record: 20 wins, four draws (including two canned matches), 24 losses.
— Robert van Royen (@RobertvanRoyen) September 3, 2020
Mauger added: “I’ve worked with some top-quality people who are outstanding at what they do and I wish them all the best going forward. Some real progress has been made in critical areas to aid future success and I’m confident the club will benefit from this down the track.
“Experiences come down to the quality of the people you surround yourself with and my experiences with the Highlanders clan and the people of the Deep South have been amazing and, as a family, we will always be grateful for that.
“A big thank you to the supporters and the community, from our ‘Little Landers’ to our ‘Lifetime Landers’, you’re a massive inspiration and you’ve all made it a memorable three years.
“Results are key to proving the quality of the structures you have put in place as a head coach. As our on-field results during my tenure haven’t been at the level we’ve all aspired to, it’s the head coach who must take responsibility for that.”
The Highlanders will now take its time before making a decision on a new appointment, according to Clark.
“We have a little bit of time before we need to make a final decision on our coaching structure for 2021,” he said. “We are fortunate we have quality coaches in Tony Brown, Clarke Dermody and Riki Flutey still contracted.”
“Over the next short period we will be reviewing our coaching structure and who and how many we add to our current group will depend on availability and our desire to get the balance of our coaching group right.”
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