As a player, outside back Cory Jane was known for his powerful fend and deceptive pace. It therefore came as somewhat of a surprise when, having retired from the game in 2017, Jane was elevated into Wellington’s coaching ranks as a backline defensive coach.
After all, Jane was usually a vital cog in ensuring tries were scored – not trying to snuff them out.
The 37-year-old impressed in his time with the Lions, however, and in 2020 was brought into the Hurricanes set-up as defence coach for the Super Rugby side he previously represented as a player.
Jane’s quick elevation up the ranks surprised many fans and pundits who’d previously been so enamoured with the fullback-cum-wing at the 2011 World Cup, when Jane helped the All Blacks claim the title on home soil.
In 2020, the Hurricanes conceded 42 tries, placing them smack bang in the middle of the NZ sides. Jane’s former teammate, TJ Perenara, was full of praise for his new coach when questioned early in the season.
“The way he works and the way he sees the game is second-to-none,” Perenara said. “A lot of people think ‘winger’ and don’t think ‘defence’, but wingers are the most important person in defence. They understand the systems, they understand offensive shifts, they understand where we’re vulnerable on defence.
“Having someone who thinks that way about defence in our environment is infectious to the players that have to be out on the field.”
The Hurricanes were forced to let go one of their coaches following the season, due to budgetary constraints, and skills coach Carlos Spencer was the unlucky man to get the chop – which perhaps places an extra onus on each of the team’s remaining coaches heading into the 2021 season. Former Crusader and Munster flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal has also joined the team’s coaching ranks.
Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland appeared on Sky Sports’ The Conversation podcast to discuss the coming year and co-host Joey Wheeler questioned how Cory Jane the player has transitioned into Cory Jane the coach.
“[Jane is] another guy that I’ve done a bit of work with and he’s a real hard case rooster and we’ve all seen him in the All Blacks environment – funny guy,” Wheeler said. “People probably didn’t realise that coaching was the pathway he was going to take … It’s happened quite quickly, not the natural path again. He’s gone out of playing maybe three years ago, straight into a coaching environment.”
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Holland naturally backed Jane’s ability and, like Perenara, highlighted the skills that Jane brings to the fold thanks to his time spent representing the All Blacks in the outside backs.
“The thing’s you’ve mentioned there are things I challenged him on when we first sat down to talk about whether he’d come on board with us,” Holland said.
“CJ has got an awesome rugby brain, especially defensively. In his last couple of years playing, he got by, his legs didn’t move that fast, but he got by on the fact that he was smart, could get into the right spots and he was picking things off and turning teams in because he’d get in the right spot. His transfer of knowledge to the boys has been awesome.”
Holland also praised Jane’s willingness to learn and develop.
“The big thing we talked [was] around having that growth mindset and he 100 per cent wants feedback, takes things on, changes his behaviour. If he gets feedback that he can something better, he’ll do it. He’s going through the roof around his development around that.
“I know the thing that we love is that he’s really driven to get things right but we can relax and have some fun with CJ as well.”
Jane played 65 matches for Wellington, 123 for Hurricanes and 55 for the All Blacks – including six games at the 2011 World Cup. The former sevens star managed 18 tries for the All Blacks throughout his career.
2021 will mark the second and final year of Jane’s initial contract as defence coach for the Hurricanes with the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition kicking off in late February.
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