Some might say he’s gone out of the frying pan and into the fire, but former All Black Alama Ieremia has been tasked with turning round the fortunes of the problem Auckland provincial side.
Ieremia’s appointment as head coach for the next three seasons was announced on Monday by the Auckland Rugby Union. The 47-year-old former Hurricanes assistant and most recently in charge of the Manu Samoa setup takes over from Nick White who stepped aside at the end of a horror 2017 campaign that saw the Auks go 3-7 and narrowly avoid relegation from the Mitre 10 Cup’s Premiership division.
Ieremia resigned as Samoa coach midway through the international season after the team crashed to four successive defeats and missed out on securing an automatic qualifying spot for the 2019 World Cup.
Some in the islands say he jumped before he was pushed, but others praised him for his selfless decision to take responsibility for the poor performances of the players under his watch.
Iermia will assume his fulltime role with the Auckland union when he moves to the city in January. His assistant coaches will be named in the new year., and ARU chief executive Jarrod Bear said he will be tasked with restoring the union to its customary level of performance.
“Alama is a coach with experience across NPC, Super, and international rugby environments and has a clear vision and professional attitude which will position him well,” said Bear.
Ieremia started coaching soon after his final game as a player in Japan in 2004 with a stint at Japan Top League club Suntory Sungoliath under Eddie Jones. He was Wellington Lions assistant coach under Jamie Joseph in 2007 and Hurricanes assistant coach from 2009-14. He stepped up as head coach of Manu Samoa from 2016-17, after an initial year in the assistant’s role.
He was a hard-running midfielder who played 40 games for the All Blacks, including 30 tests, from 1994-2000. He also turned out for Manu Samoa on five occasions in 1992-93, as one of just a handful of players to wear the colours of both New Zealand and the Pacific nation.
He scored the first ever Super Rugby try for the Hurricanes against the Blues in 1996. He played 65 games for Wellington, winning the 2000 NPC first division title in his last season, and 42 for the Hurricanes from 1996-2000 before rounding out his playing days in Japan.
Ieremia pledged to guide Auckland back to the forefront of the New Zealand provincial game.
“Auckland is a proud and passionate union and the Mitre 10 Cup campaign is something I’m familiar with. It’s a short and sharp competition.
“I’ll be looking at how to bring our under-19 success through and mix that with the Super Rugby talent we have. There’s a lot of depth, and it’s exciting coming into an environment where you can put that together,” he said.
“Auckland rugby is steeped in history. The size of the union, the challenges of getting the best out of our players – these are some of the things that attracted me to the job. I’m really excited about the challenge.”
Originally published on stuff.co.nz