Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd went to the end of the earth to expel memories of their Super Rugby final defeat.
It didn’t work.
Not long after the gut-wrenching 21-14 home loss to the Highlanders in July, Boyd embarked on a six-week backpacking trip around South America which included a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Seeking the best way to re-trace Darwin’s footsteps, Boyd entered a tour company office which happened to be run a Kiwi – who happened to hail from Alexandra in the Highlanders’ heartland.
“When I said g’day to him, he said `it was a shame about the final’. It was a tough reminder.”
Off-season training begins this week for the 2015 runaway regular season winners, who stumbled at the final hurdle of easily their best campaign.
Boyd says lessons from the painful loss will be rekindled at some point of the pre-season but he will do it carefully.
“We can’t ignore it but we don’t want to start too negatively so that’s going to be a bit of a challenge.”
His world champion All Blacks contingent will join the fray soon after Christmas, earlier than usual because there was no November tour.
Boyd admits replacing the colossal influence of Test greats Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu in the midfield is shaping as a head-scratcher.
There is no shortage of options, including seasoned utility Matt Proctor, Southland’s Willis Halaholo, Auckland’s Vince Aso, Blues recruit Pita Ahki and Warriors NRL defector Ngani Laumape.
“We’ve got five genuine contenders to sift through and I’m pretty open-minded,” he said.
“I’m comfortable that they’re all good players and that somebody will come to the surface.”
Laumape is the most intriguing prospect, with Boyd describing the 22-year-old as a “rock star” at schoolboy level before joining the Warriors for a three-season stint which was spoiled by injury.
Boyd is yet to decide his captain for 2016.