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Chiefs Manawa unveil coaching line-up for inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki season

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The Chiefs scored a 39-12 victory over the Blues in 2020's Super Rugby Wahine exhibition match. (Photo by Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

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The Chiefs Manawa team have confirmed an experienced coaching group for the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki Women’s competition this year.


High-calibre coaches, Crystal Kaua and Rodney Gibbs will join Chiefs Manawa head coach Allan Bunting as his assistant coaches.

Kaua spent several years in the Waikato before heading overseas to coach. She successfully demonstrated her ability while coaching at Hamilton Girls’ High School and with the University of Waikato XVs programme before venturing overseas to build her sevens resume. The current Black Ferns Sevens skills coach and analyst has gained an abundance of experience overseas in the Cook Islands and most recently Japan, while also being heavily involved in the Black Ferns Sevens Development framework.

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Gibbs began his coaching career in the Bay of Plenty following a professional playing career for his home province. Gibbs is no stranger to high-performance coaching, being a part of the Bay of Plenty Steamers coaching group from 2013 as the side’s assistant coach. Making the shift to the women’s game in 2018, Gibbs headed the women’s performance programme and took up the role of head coach for the Bay of Plenty Volcanix. Gibbs has been a part of the New Zealand Rugby High Performance framework, leading the NZ Barbarians team against the Black Ferns in last year’s November series.

Newly appointed Chiefs Manawa assistant coach Kaua said: “We have a platform that is a game-changer for women’s rugby and I am honoured to be a part of the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition.”

“We have a great opportunity to be a part of something special. I love the Chiefs Rugby Club and what it represents, and I want to do everything I can to help them succeed.”

“I’m excited to work alongside Bunts and Gibby. We all care deeply about people and we also want to play a brand of rugby that is innovative and inspiring,” finished Kaua.


Chiefs Manawa assistant coach Gibbs said: “It’s a real privilege to be given the opportunity to be involved with the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa team in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition. Coming from Bay of Plenty, I have a real connection with the Chiefs Rugby Club which gives real meaning to the responsibility we have to represent our region and people.”

“I’m looking forward to working alongside the management team that has been selected. Especially the opportunity to learn and share ideas with Bunts and Crystal to create an environment and team that will produce results for not only 2022, but into the future as well.

“When you look at the calibre of the players that have been selected, it’s pretty hard not to be excited about what lies ahead.”


Chiefs Manawa head coach Bunting said: “It is great to have the combination of coaching experience that both Crystal and Gibby (Rodney) bring to our environment.”

“Crystal has a wealth of experience and has contributed to women’s rugby in a massive way. Crafting her coaching career in both fifteens and sevens, she has been very successful and produced a stream of talent into Black Ferns Sevens and XVs through her work at Hamilton Girls’ High School. Crystal’s desire, drive and her experience has led to her own successful programmes here and overseas making her a lot more than just a coach. This is reflected in where she is right now, being part of the Black Ferns Sevens coaching team. To have her in our coaching group will be invaluable for our team’s growth.”

“Gibby also comes with a wealth of experience is well established in his coaching and has been very influential in the development in both men’s and women’s rugby, locally and nationally. The former Bay of Plenty Steamers Assistant Coach has an excellent rapport with the players and has contributed to the growth of women’s rugby with his time in the Bay and more recently leading the NZ Barbarians on a quality campaign. Being a former 10 as a player, the knowledge he brings from both a men’s and women’s high-performance environment will complete our coaching combination and form a unit that will maximise the growth and development of our team.”

Chiefs Rugby Club chief executive officer Michael Collins said: “We are pleased to confirm a group of high-quality coaches assisting Bunts for the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa’s inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki campaign. Together we have a great group of talented individuals who will complement each other and we expect will draw the best out of our Waitomo Chiefs Manawa squad. We are excited to see what they will achieve.”

The first Chiefs Manawa squad was announced late last year ahead of the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition kicking off in 2022. The draw is yet to be announced.

– Chiefs Rugby


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