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Hamilton Boys farewell one of the great coaches in New Zealand schoolboy rugby

By Adam Julian
HASTINGS, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 12: Nigel Hotham congratulates Hamilton Boys High School following the Super 8 Rugby Final match between Hastings Boys High School and Hamilton Boys High School at Hastings Boys High School on August 12, 2017 in Hastings, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Nigel Hotham, the brains behind Hamilton Boys High’s world-class rugby programme, has stepped down as the school’s first XV coach after a remarkable 21 years at the helm, all of them with Greg Kirkham.


The historic run includes five world schoolboy titles, four national championships and 51 New Zealand schoolboy selections among a host of other impressive records.

Hotham is shortly heading off to the Touch World Cup 2024 in Nottingham, England, where his son and dentist Legin is playing for New Zealand, and then to the Paris Olympics where his daughter Jazmin is playing for the Black Ferns Sevens looking to defend their gold medal from Tokyo.

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After that, Hotham is coaching with USRC Tigers, a struggling rugby club in Hong Kong.

Hotham’s departure marks the end of an era not just for a school that has captured five national top four secondary schools first XV titles, but arguably also for the wider code, given Hotham had become a critical cog in New Zealand’s broader rugby machinery by developing and guiding a host of professional players, including six All Blacks.

Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow was Hotham’s first All Black.

“Tawera was in my Social Studies class in Year 9. A short chunky hostel lad, he was obviously mad on his rugby. We were discussing goal setting, and I asked each boy to share his goal. When it was Tawera’s turn he boldly stated, ‘I will one day play for the First XV,’” Hotham recalled.

“I hid my smile and replied something like ‘that’s a great goal and it’s important that we do aim high.’ I never imagined at the time that he would develop into such a special player until he lost some weight and started training his core halfback skills straight outside my office window.”


Hotham’s training session became legendary with Chiefs halfback Xavier Roe remarking.

“I trained harder in the Hamilton Boys First XV than I do at Chiefs. The thing about Ham Boys is you know if you’re not pulling your weight, someone else is. The Chiefs are the same but more mature.”

Maori All Blacks co-captain Rameka Poihipi (Ngati Whakaue) is another product ofHamilton Boys. Phophi said this week.

“There are an abundance of players who have Nigel to thank for their careers. The programme is so extensive it sets you up for the mental and physical demands of professional rugby.


“The other thing it does is build special connections. There’s so much training, travel, challenge and fun. The camaraderie is very strong. I consider myself privileged to have been part of it.”

Hamilton BHS Record: 2003-2024

Year Played Won Lost Drawn For Against
2003: 19, 10-9-0, 442-248
2004: 25, 19-6-0, 845-217
2005: 19, 16-3-0, 578-174
2006: 20, 18-2-0, 582-155
2007: 20, 19-1-0, 722-130
2008: 20, 18-0-2, 595-97
2009: 23, 21-2-0, 632-200
2010: 23, 21-2-0, 822-252
2011: 20, 16-4-0, 702-280
2012: 20, 17-3-0, 699-212
2013: 18, 17-1-0, 649-218
2014: 25, 21-2-2, 876-211
2015: 14, 11-3-0, 439-182
2016: 19, 16-3-0, 536-245
2017: 19, 14-1-1, 757-214
2018: 18, 16-2-0, 587-214
2019: 21, 19-2-0, 798-240
2020: 13, 13-0-0, 468-137
2021: 13, 11-2-0, 415-176
2022: 15, 14-1-0, 478-174
2023: 20, 18-2-0, 768-266
2024: 8, 6-2-0, 183-67

Total: 412, 351-53-5, 13591-4329

Team Honours

Super 8 Winners: 15 – 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 (Shared), 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023

Top Four Appearances: 13 – 2004 (Fourth), 2007 (Third), 2008 (Shared Win), 2009 (Won), 2010 (Second), 2012 (Third), 2013 (Won), 2014 (Shared Win), 2016 (Third), 2017 (Second), 2018 (Third), 2019 (Third), 2022 (Won)

Moascar Cup Holders: 2008-2010, (17 defences), 2013-2014, 2022, 2023 (33 defences, most of any school in this period)

Sanix World Youth Champions: 2010, 2011, 2014, 2023

Thailand World Schools Festival Champions: 2022

Condor Sevens Winners: 2006, 2008, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 (Didn’t lose a single game from 2016-22)

National Touch Champions: 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019

Individual Honours

NZ Schools Players: 51

All Blacks: 6 (Tawera Kerr Kerr-Barlow, Josh Lord, Emoni Narawa, Cortez Ratima, Sevu Reece)

All Blacks Sevens: 10 (Luke Masirewa, Declan O’Donnell, Kylem O’Donnell, Glen Robertson, Payton Spencer, Dwayne Sweeney, Isaac Te Tamaki, Save Tokula, Regan Ware, Joe Webber)

Internationals: 7 (Sean Maitland (Scotland/British & Irish Lions), Caleb Muntz (Fiji), Jared Payne (Ireland/British & Irish Lions, Toby Smith (Australia), Henry Speight (Australia), Albert Vulivuli (Fiji), Dominique Waqaniburotu (Fiji)

Note: Before Hamilton BHS, Hotham taught at Kelson BHS and coached the First XV from 2000 to 2002. In each of those seasons, Kelston finished in the Top Four of the 1A competition and fashioned an overall record of 51 wins in 66 matches.

All Black Sam Tuitupou passed through during this time. In 2002 Kelston won the Moascar Cup off De La Salle College (16-8) and had Moascar wins that season against St Paul’s College (40-0), Tauranga BC (29-15), Otahuhu College (30-15) and Auckland Grammar School (21-3).

Hotham coached the senior touch team to National titles in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002.

New Zealand Schools Reps (51 selections)

2003: Shannon Hepi
2004: David Bason, Sam Christie
2005: Sean Maitland, Trent Renata
2006: Jackson Willison, Adam Cathcart, Matthew Cameron
2007: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Murray Iti, Jason Church
2008: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Adams, Vance Elliot, Glen Robertson, Aaron Kelly
2009: Chauncy Edwardson
2010: Fraser Armstrong, Nick Ross, Adam Burn
2011: Joseph Webber, Joseph Walsh, Kane Jacobson
2012: Regan Ware
2013: Bryn Gatland, Harrison Levien, Isaac Te Tamaki, Samuel Chongkit
2014: Aiden Johnstone, Solomone Tukuafu
2015: Sevu Reece
2017: Quinn Tupaea, Charles Alaimalo, Tautaurangimarie Kapea
2018: Thomas Martin, Joshua Lord
2019: Matthew Dobbyn
2020: Oliver Foote, Noah Hotham, Mason Tupaea
2021: Austin Anderson, Taylor Cahill, Taha Kemara, Sean Ralph, Gabe Robinson, Payton Spencer
2022: Caelys-Paul Putoko, Payton Spencer, Aki Tuivailala
2023: Oli Mathis, Caelys-Paul Putoko, Rangiwai Lunjevich, Raharuhi Palmer

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Richard 10 days ago

Nigel played a great game of Touch, as did his wife, both representing NZ and their provinces in the 80s & 90s.
I believe Nigel also coached a NZ secondary schools team (or NZU21 ) to a Touch World Cup title back in the late 90s. He left a legacy at Kelston and HBHS reaped the rewards. Humble guy, remarkable family…

David 10 days ago

That’s quite a legacy. They can add his son to the list of ABs now.

Andrew 11 days ago

Rameka Phophi ? Poihipi please.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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