O'Gara departs with rugby love reaffirmed

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O'Gara will leave Christchurch on Wednesday with his family to take up a coaching position with French club La Rochelle.

He told the Irish Examiner that it was working with people at the Crusaders who shared similar values that had made his stint so enjoyable.

"It is impossible not to derive benefit from daily interaction with the likes of Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty – the list goes on. I've been so lucky the time I have been here to be around them.

"Those players make the enjoyment factor so much greater, make that sense of contentment a lot deeper," he said.

O'Gara said he was thrilled to see six Crusaders backs included in the All Blacks first squad of the team.


"I look at the progress of Sevu Reece. He was going to Connacht at one stage, and now he's probably going to the World Cup as an All Black. That is what the environment of the Crusaders has done for him. I don't think you are comparing like with like if you had put him in a Connacht jersey this season – and that is said with no disrespect to Connacht.


"It's the people who create the environment, good or bad. It's very hard to explain to the reader, but you get confidence, belief and most importantly, security, from the people in the Crusaders environment – not from the environment itself," he said.

In his new position in France, O'Gara said he would like to take many of the good things he'd learned in Christchurch but it would not be right to try a 'cut and paste' approach because the circumstances could not be replicated.

O'Gara said he had also been intrigued by the fact in a rugby-mad country, the Crusaders often played in front of less-than-full houses. Yet, in spite of the absence of big crowds, the Crusaders still performed. They didn't need to draw on the crowd to succeed, and they had managed that time after time.

"That's even more impressive," he said.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of the backs I have coached; they are a special bunch and they have marked me. Scott Robertson might appear to have a job on his hands when a lot of the senior players leave after this campaign, but the difference is his attitude.

"My old mindset would have been about all the players we are going to miss next season, but his approach is next man up. It isn't so much a glass half-full attitude as a glass full all the time. Nobody in the Crusaders looks for an excuse," he said.