As attack and backs coach of the Wellington-based outfit, Holland, 44, helped the Hurricanes win their first Super Rugby title last summer, harnessing an all-star backline spearheaded by World Rugby player of the year Beauden Barrett.
It is a highlight on a coaching resumé that would alert clubs across Europe and particularly in Ireland, where he one day wishes to coach. Yet the man who made Midleton, Co. Cork, his home for more than a decade as he made 102 appearances for Munster between 1999 and 2008 and then moved into management has no interest in succeeding Rassie Erasmus, who looks set to return to South Africa just one season into his three-year contract as director of rugby and take defence coach Jacques Nienaber with him.
“We heard about that when we were in Africa, about a month ago, that he (Erasmus) was going. ‘Ahh Jesus,’ I was saying,” Holland said this week in Wellington, where his Hurricanes drew with the British & Irish Lions in a 31-31 thriller on Tuesday.
“I’d love to go back but not at this moment. We’ve got such good mates over there, I still love the Irish, love the place. I’d love to go back at some stage but not in the near future. I’d love to get back for a good holiday with the kids. Long-term it would be good to get back, yeah. Especially when Axel passed away, I thought ‘Jeez, I want to go back, I want to go back’. But we’ll see what happens here.”
Holland, who played in the Heineken Cup final defeats of 2000 and 2002, began his coaching career at Munster under Tony McGahan when he was promoted in 2008 from video analyst to backs coach after the Australian succeeded Declan Kidney, appointed on the same coaching ticket as Anthony Foley.
The New Zealander admitted the Munster job came too soon for him. He returned to New Zealand in 2012 to become assistant coach of provincial ITM Cup team Canterbury and worked with the Crusaders academy before getting the call up to Wellington to join the Hurricanes ahead of what would be a championship-winning 2016 season.
“In my first couple of years at Munster, you knew what you wanted but I was shit at getting messages across to the boys. Clarity wasn’t as good as I’ve probably come to now. I’d love to stay here for a good while, partly because the family, I’ve moved them around. I remember I was telling the girls they were leaving Ireland five years ago and then nearly changing my mind because their worlds were falling apart, they were born over there.
“And then going to Canterbury and two years later telling them, ‘we need to have a chat, girls’ and them looking at me like ‘we’re not moving again’. I said, ‘yeah, we have to’.
“So I don’t want to have to move them again, they’re 14 and 10, just at high school, but as far as coaching is concerned I’d love to bed in here. I’ve still got lots to learn but I’ve got an opportunity here to run the attack and the backs and bounce ideas off Nehe Milner-Skudder and Beaudie Barrett and TJ Perenara and those sort of boys, great learning.
“You’d have to be mad if you’re not milking those boys in this environment. So I’d love to be just doing what I’m doing for another couple of years and see what happens. I’ve got no interest in being head coach at the moment. I just want to be out on the grass — technical, tactical, skills, how are we going to play, how are we going to break this down — that excites me.
“I’d love to have another three or four years here, just doing what I’m doing and getting better at it. Then I’ll see what happens. Who knows what’ll happen but I’ll get the kids through school first and hopefully win a couple of championships here, beat the Lions and see what happens in three or four years.”