Former All Blacks coach Hart appointed to Blues board

The Auckland Blues have been the worst-performing New Zealand side in Super Rugby since 2013. (Reuters pic)

WELLINGTON: Former New Zealand coach John Hart was appointed to the board of the Auckland Blues after New Zealand Rugby (NZR) bought back a 40% stake in the struggling franchise from their private owners.

Hart, who coached the all-conquering Auckland provincial side in the 1980s, took over as All Blacks coach in 1996.

He resigned after the All Blacks were knocked out by France in the semifinals of the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Former Cabinet Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga was also appointed to the Blues board, along with NZR board member Richard Dellabarca.

“We are pleased that John, Richard, and Sam are available to represent NZR’s partnership interest in the Blues Super Rugby club,” NZR chief executive Steve Tew said in a statement.

“In combination with other recent changes to the coaching team and re-signing and recruitment of key players, this is one of many steps to help rebuild the success of the club.”

The Blues, Super Rugby champions in 1996, 1997, and 2003, have been the worst-performing New Zealand side in the competition since 2013.

They have failed to make the playoffs in each of the years since and finished ninth in a reduced competition of 15 teams this year, garnering seven wins along the way.

NZR sold ownership of the management licences of their five Super Rugby franchises from 2013, with the sale split between the team’s component provincial unions and private investors Bolton Equities Limited (BEL).

The national governing body bought back BEL’s stake last month.