The Chiefs have announced that head coach Colin Cooper will be stepping down from his role this year in order to spend more time with his family.
Cooper, who has coached the Chiefs for the past two seasons, opted not to see out the last of a three-year term and sought an early release from his contract.
Chiefs CEO Michael Collins said he and Cooper had been in discussions for several weeks, which meant the club could begin their recruitment process discreetly without interrupting the 2019 campaign.
‘We are grateful to Coops for his outstanding leadership and coaching at the Chiefs. He is a proud man who set an incredibly high bar in terms of personal standards and behaviour, both on and off the field.
‘We are really proud of the culture he has fostered inside our club and team environment, and he can be proud of what he has achieved with the Chiefs.’
Under Cooper, the Chiefs have reached the Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-finals in 2018 and 2019.
Cooper said he was proud to have been part of the Chiefs and leading a ‘great group of young men’.
‘I believe the team and the club are bigger than the individual and the club comes first. With next year the start of a new World Cup cycle, I believe it is the right time to step aside. There is a good crew of players and staff here who are committed to carrying the club forward,’ Cooper said.
‘Developing young players and coaches for the future of New Zealand rugby is something I’m very passionate about, and I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of that with the Chiefs.’
Cooper has been coaching rugby professionally for more than 20 years. He took on the role of Chiefs head coach after eight successful seasons leading the Taranaki Mitre 10 Cup team, during which time he also coached the Māori All Blacks for five years. Previously he was head coach of the Hurricanes for eight years.
Cooper said he would now take a break to consider his future.