Solomons departs as Krige gives up Saints captaincy

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The Independent Online

The Northampton coach Alan Solomons yesterday paid the price for the club's worst run in the Premiership and left the club by mutual consent. His fellow South African Corne Krige immediately stepped down as the Saints captain. A panel of five "home" boys, headed by Budge Pountney, has taken charge of coaching, if necessary until the end of the season.

The Northampton coach Alan Solomons yesterday paid the price for the club's worst run in the Premiership and left the club by mutual consent. His fellow South African Corne Krige immediately stepped down as the Saints captain. A panel of five "home" boys, headed by Budge Pountney, has taken charge of coaching, if necessary until the end of the season.

The panel, which comprises Pountney, the former England fly-half Paul Grayson, the forwards coach Adrian Kennedy, the skills coach Frank Ponissi and the technical analyst Paul Larkin, is expected to announce Krige's successor today or later this week. Northampton's chairman, Keith Barwell, said: "The club will be combing the world for another head coach. However, the ideal would be that our temporary coaching set-up works out."

The departure of Solomons, who imported a bunch of overseas players - predominantly South Africans, including the former Springbok captain Krige - does not necessarily herald an end to that country's presence in the East Midlands.

Among the names being bandied about to take over is that of Nick Mallett, the former South African and Stade Français coach, who is between jobs and doing media work in South Africa. The former Saints captain Pat Lam, at present coaching Auckland, is another being spoken of as a possible successor, and to those two names could be added the former New Zealand coach John Mitchell, who enjoyed some success at Sale as player and coach.

Whoever comes in will have his work cut out. Northampton's slump was beginning to look terminal. Eight Premiership losses on the trot, the last one a humiliating home defeat to the bottom club Worcester, was too much even for Saints. Solomons, who had arrived at Franklin's Gardens after three years at Ulster, had to go. Not even two victories in the European Cup could save him.

Solomons' fate looked as if it had been sealed even before the Worcester match. Grayson, who is developing into a talented coach himself, was talking about Saints' struggles, since the departure of the previous coach Wayne Smith - now with the All Blacks - in an interview with his local paper last Friday. In it he said: "[That] was a huge change in the off season and not [one] we would have chosen to make. The club hadn't planned for Wayne Smith to be here for such a short time, because the work he was doing was fantastic. There was an enforced change with a whole new regime coming in, and I guess this year was always going to be difficult."

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