Todd Blackadder’s early announcement that the 2016 Super Rugby campaign will be his last as Crusaders coach is part of a bid to avoid the distractions that hindered his team this year.
Blackadder said on Tuesday that he would step aside after what will be his eighth year in charge.
Franchise management say an open and contestable process to find a replacement won’t begin until the season is over and Blackadder added that he didn’t plan to think about his post-Crusaders future before then.
“If I were to do that during the campaign, that would be the exact distraction I’m trying to avoid,” he told journalists.
“I’m just going to focus on the Crusaders and try and nail a really good year.”
The former All Blacks captain skippered the Crusaders to three of their competition-record seven titles.
But he hasn’t been able to add to the tally as coach and the Crusaders this year failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
An end-of-season review highlighted off-field distractions and uncertainty as a problem for the players.
Blackadder said these included managing game time for the Crusaders’ All Blacks, having other franchises approach his coaching staff, having players come back when not fit and ready to go at the start of the season and “there was a big World Cup out there”.
“Why I’m being so upfront today is that I’d just like to have a really distraction-free campaign where we’re solely focusing on this team, unlocking all the talent and reaching its goals.”
Blackadder said the decision hadn’t been easy but he felt it was the correct one.
“It’s been an absolute privilege working and coaching in this organisation and for this team, but I felt the time was right,” he said.
“I’m lucky to have one more crack to try and be part of a winning campaign.”
Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said Blackadder was a “cult hero” at the Crusaders, both as a player and a coach.
“That’s because of the incredible passion and loyalty that he has always displayed for this team,” Riach said.
“He has given everything to the Crusaders and we have been incredibly lucky to have him.”