The Crusaders have announced that Todd Blackadder will step aside as Head Coach at the conclusion of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
“This will be my eigth season coaching the Crusaders, and every minute in the role has been a privilege," said Blackadder.
"But moving on at the end of the 2016 season is the right thing for me and the right thing for the team.
“I have been so fortunate to be able to do my dream job for all of these years, but eight years is a relatively long time in coaching and I feel that the time is right for someone else to take the reins and lead the team in their own direction in the future.
“One of the important things to come out of our 2015 season review is that distractions were a problem for us last season, so that is why I was keen to make my intentions clear before the season begins to avoid my future becoming a distraction for the team during the 2016 season.”
Blackadder took over from Robbie Deans as Head Coach of the Crusaders in 2009. He has coached the team to four Super Rugby semi-finals and two finals so far, and the final against the Waratahs in 2014 marked his 100th game as Crusaders Head Coach.
Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach said Blackadder had been a huge part of the fabric of the Crusaders since playing in the inaugural team in 1996.
“Toddy is one of the original Crusaders and he has shown a consummate commitment to this team since day one," he said.
"His leadership qualities were immediately apparent as a player so it was no surprise that he went on to captain the Crusaders team for five seasons, as well as becoming the Canterbury and All Blacks captain.
"It also seemed almost inevitable that he would return as a coach one day, as he did in 2009.
“He has a kind of cult hero status around these parts, and that’s because of the incredible passion and loyalty that he has always displayed for this team.
"He has given everything to the Crusaders and we have been incredibly lucky to have him, as both a player and a coach.
“While his tenure as Head Coach will finish at the end of this season, I know that Toddy will continue to have plenty to offer this team beyond that.
"For now, we will enjoy having him lead the 2016 team and hope it is a memorable season for him and all of us.”
Blackadder said he has no firm plans yet beyond the 2016 season and is in no hurry to make any.
“I am thinking no further ahead than the season that is in front of me.
"I am incredibly excited about the 2016 season and what happens beyond that is immaterial right now.
"There have been some big changes in the BNZ Crusaders with some significant players moving on and a number of new, younger players coming into the mix, and I think that signals some really exciting times ahead.
“I want the 2016 Crusaders team to be the best yet. My goals for this season are to have this team playing for each other, to improve our home record, and to have this community feeling proud of their team.
"I can’t honestly say that we achieved that last year, so this is my last chance to get that right.
“I can’t wait to work with this season’s squad and my ultimate goal is to leave the team in good heart at the end of the season so that it can continue to be the proud and successful team it always has been.”
An open and contestable process to appoint a new Crusaders Head Coach will begin at the conclusion of the 2016 Super Rugby season.