Sharpe and Johnson named as State of Origin coaches
New Zealand have appointed Michael Sharpe as coach of the South Island team, and Vaughn Johnson will take charge of the North Island side for the State of Origin match on February 8.
Sharpe is currently coach of the State Canterbury Wizards, who are playing in the State Shield final this Friday against the State Central Districts Stags.
Johnson, meanwhile, is the current coach of the State Wellington Firebirds, last year's finalists in the State Shield, and winner of the title in 2001-02.
Martin Snedden, the board's chief executive, said they were continuing to look for opportunities for the country's best coaches to gain experience at higher levels of the game. "NZC recognises the need to offer our top coaches fresh challenges and experiences to further their development," he said. "Both Michael and Vaughn are successful coaches at domestic level and this type of experience at another step up is beneficial to them and the players in their respective domestic teams."
The South Island team received a boost with the news that Nathan Astle will be fit to play in the match, even though an MRI-scan revealed he has some damage to the cartilage in his right knee.
Lindsay Crocker, the New Zealand team's manager, said the scan had been reviewed by Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Paul Armour. "Nathan has had a cortisone injection to help settle the knee," he said. "These two games will give medical staff an opportunity to see how his knee holds up to a game situation loading requirements. He will be reviewed again on Monday by Mr Armour and then Nathan and the New Zealand Cricket Medical panel will decide on an appropriate treatment programme and his availability for the South African Series."