Retaining up to 25 off-contract stars is Daryl Gibson’s top priority after being confirmed as the NSW Waratahs’ head coach for the next three Super Rugby seasons.
Gibson was on Thursday formally promoted to take over from Michael Cheika, who will focus solely on his role as Wallabies coach in 2016.
In his third season as attack coach at the Tahs, after Cheika lured him across the Tasman from the Crusaders in 2012, Gibson is the first foreigner ever entrusted with the NSW coaching position.
“It’s one of the premier positions in the game in Australia, without doubt,” Waratahs chief Greg Harris said.
Gibson said his immediate focus – before hoping to build a dynasty at the Waratahs – was on re-signing the key members of the championship-winning roster, including Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley and skipper Dave Dennis.
“That’s urgent business right now,” Gibson said.
“That’s the challenge that’s before us. With the current contracting climate and the competition from overseas, it’s one that we’re dealing with immediately.
“We have 25 guys potentially off contract.”
The former All Blacks centre has been influential in transforming the Waratahs, for years the great underachievers in Super Rugby, into titleholders and both the coach and Harris are confident his appointment will lead to a host of big-name re-signings
“To that end, the negotiations aren’t solely the Waratahs’ responsibility,” Harris said.
“It’s a joint venture responsibility with respect to contracting players of national interest and the majority of that lies, under the current contracting system, with the ARU.”
The mild-mannered Gibson, who won 19 Test caps for New Zealand and won four Super Rugby titles as a player with the Crusaders before starting his coaching career in 2007 with Glasgow, acknowledges he is a vastly different character to the abrasive and fiery Cheika.
But the 40-year-old is vowing to stamp his own style on the Waratahs while continuing to build on the successful culture and foundation that Cheika’s established.
“We’ve worked hard over the last three years to really drive and transform ourselves into perennial contenders,” Gibson said.
“It’s certainly my goal that we retain that status and compete every year for trophies.
“While some people might think that’s arrogant, I believe because of our position in Australian rugby and the fact that we sit on the largest talent base, that should not be unachievable.”
Although Cheika has already appointed NSW’s current defensive coach Nathan Grey to his Wallabies staff, the Waratahs are hopeful of coming to an arrangement with the ARU to allow Grey to also stay on with the Super champions.
Gibson has been given free rein to search internationally for a forwards coach.
“I really appreciated that from the (selection) panel,” he said.
“My own personal view is, yes, I’d like it to be an Australian. I think that’s important for our coaching pathways.
“But I’m not going to be held down to that box. I want to get the best person for the role and, if that person’s from somewhere else, I’m willing to take that step.”
DARYL GIBSON AT A GLANCE
Born: Lumsden, New Zealand
Crusaders caps: 77 (1996-2002); Super Rugby champions 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002
All Blacks caps: 19 (1999-2002)
Bristol caps: 21 (2002-03)
Leicester caps: 90 (2003-07)
Glasgow caps: 18 (2007-0)
Crusaders assistant (2009-2012)
NSW Waratahs assistant (2013-2015)