Defiant Penney says he won’t back away from struggling Crusaders

A defiant Rob Penney says he will not resign as coach despite the Crusaders’ two-win, 10-loss record this season, leaving the defending champions in doubt to make the playoffs.

In a tense exchange with the media this afternoon, Penney, who replaced Scott Robertson this season, said he retained the support of the players and hoped to take the head coaching job next season.

Robertson won seven titles in a row during his seven seasons at the Crusaders but Penney, although hampered by injuries to key players, has struggled to maintain anything resembling the consistency of performance achieved by the new All Blacks head coach.

The Crusaders play the top Blues in Christchurch on Saturday.

Today Penney was asked: “How much responsibility should the players take?”

Journalist Thomas Mead asked the coach about his future in a tense press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Penney: “We are all in this together. “It is a combination of many things and we will strive to put in a great performance this week against the Blues.”

“What would you do different?”

Penney: “We probably win those critical moments when we are not able to cross the line. “We’ve been close several times.”

“Do you expect to be in the same position next year?”

Penney: “Absolutely.”

“Would you consider stepping aside?”

Penny: “No.”

Asked if he would consider a more independent “director of rugby” type role next season, Penney replied: “I don’t know why you would argue that.”

Penney is understood to be on a two-year contract, with Penney and Robertson assistant Tamati Ellison in line to succeed him.

The Brumbies celebrate a try against the Crusaders during the home team's victory in Canberra.

Few other than the most committed Crusaders fans will expect the home team to prevail against a Blues team that has reached a new level in terms of forward power and defense this season, but Penney said he was excited about the matchup.

“Shortly after finishing the Brumbies (game), we had already started looking at the Blues and the lads were invigorated by the prospect,” he said.

Asked where the blame lies for a season marked by poor on-field decision-making that reached its nadir at the end of last weekend’s loss to the Brumbies when Quinten Strange conceded a penalty try, Penney He said: “If you’re looking to apportion blame, I’ll leave that to others, but all I know is that everyone in the organization is working very hard to get the results we deserve and would love to see.”

They asked, “What could you do better or change?”

“You’re always looking to get better and better,” Penney responded. “That’s a continuing evolution in the role I play and that won’t change.”

Penney, sacked by the Waratahs in his last Super Rugby job, was asked if he was tempted to “end” this season and move on.

“Of course not,” he replied.

“Because?”

“Because I love this group and I know what they are capable of. You just have to remember a few seasons ago, I think 2001, when the Crusaders, after winning three in a row, finished tenth. Then they went undefeated in 2002. I’m not sure where all this came from… pessimism is not something we believe.”

When asked if he had any guarantees that his job was safe, Penney responded: “Yes, I’m still boxing…we’re already looking forward to next year.”

When asked if he still had the support of the players, he said: “I wouldn’t be here if I felt otherwise.”