Kaua, Grant to become first female Super Rugby head coaches

Source: 1News

Another milestone will be reached when Super Rugby Aupiki returns for its second season next year with the Chiefs and Hurricanes announcing the first female head coaches in the competition.

Crystal Kaua will coach Chiefs Manawa while Victoria Grant will guide Hurricanes Poua for next year's tournament, giving the women's rugby competition a 50/50 split in male-to-female head coaches.

Kaua takes over the Waikato side after assisting former head coach Allan Bunting to the inaugural title earlier this year before spending the rest of the season as a performance analyst and skills coach for the Black Ferns Sevens.

Grant on the other hand steps up after being Black Ferns Assistant Coach Wesley Clarke's understudy for the Hurricanes Pouas' first season.

Kaua told 1News her appointment was only the start of a long journey for rugby in New Zealand though.

"I think the day people see us as coaches, that's when we would've nailed it and we're not there yet, we're a long way from there in New Zealand," she said.

"I'm excited to be part of that shift and I think it's vital and important for people to be able to look up and see coaches.

"I was in Japan and was never referred to as a female coach in the five years I was there so we've got a long way to go but this is the start of something that's going to show there's opportunities as pro coaches in New Zealand irrelevant of gender."

The pair join Matatū's Blair Baxter and Willie Walker of the Blues as the four coaches in 2023.

New Zealand Rugby general manager of professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum said the coaching line up was an exciting development for the competition.

"It was great to have the inaugural season of Super Rugby Aupiki take place earlier this year. Even though the teams faced disruptions due to Covid, it produced exciting rugby and saw some incredible talent on display," Lendrum said.

"We are committed to providing pathways for women coaches in our game. This is testament to the work achieved by these wāhine and those who have assisted their development. It is an exciting time for them both and we are looking forward to seeing them continue their coaching journey."

Lendrum added Super Rugby Aupiki's extension to five weeks for 2023 was also a promising sign for the women's game.

"We are thrilled to have the competition extended this coming season. It will provide greater exposure for a number of talented players.

"Super Rugby Aupiki is fast, open and exciting rugby; it will be our first taste of the women's game after Rugby World Cup 2021 and we know teams and fans alike will be looking forward to kicking off come February."

Next year's season kicks off on February 25 with Hurricanes Poua hosting Chiefs Manawa at 2.05pm in Levin, while Matatū welcome the Blues to Dunedin at 4.35pm.

Teams will then play a round robin format for the first three weeks of competition before heading into semi-finals on Sunday 19 March before the competition rounds off a third-fourth playoff and the grand final on Saturday 25 March.

There will also be one preseason round.

The squads will be named later this year.