Top 14 – August 31, 2004: the day ASM sacked its last coach of the season

TOP 14 – Season-long eviction of Jono Gibbes by ASM Clermont was an earthquake in Auvergne. The yellow and blue club had not laid off a coach during that season for eighteen years. In the summer of 2004, Alain Hyardet left his post in the heat of January 2023, before Olivier Saïsset finally put the Clermont’s rudders in order.

A volcano has awakened in the Auvergne. ASM made official this Monday, January 16th, the sacking of Jono Gibbes, from his position as manager of Clermont. The New Zealand technician’s departure was highly anticipated following Clermont’s crushing loss to Leicester (29-44), but the official announcement capped a glittering era in ASM’s history. The Jaunards club have not actually laid off a coach for a season since… August 2004. A prosperous period of eighteen years and five months, during which Clermont notably experienced its first two Brennus shields (2010, 2017) and three European Cup finals (2013, 2015 , 2017), under the orders of Vern Cotter (2006-2014) and Franck Azéma (2014-2021).

But before the heyday of ASM, Alain Hyardet had suffered the same fate as Jono Gibbes. Back then, the French championship was called the Top 16 and the yellow and blue club, Montferrand. After an average 2003-2004 season, Alain Hyyardet and his men began their next practice in troubled waters in September. Cup is full for René Fontès, the new president of ASM.

René Fontès, president of Clermont between 2004 and 2013.
Patrick Derewiany / Sports Icon – Patrick Derewiany / Sports Icon

We have a ball smashing team

A similar breakthrough to New Zealand but in a very different context assumed Alexandre Audebert, Clermont’s third in line between 1999 and 2012. The 2010 French champion explains in particular the huge differences regarding the workforce and emerging professionalism.

“At that time, we had a tough team, it must be said (laughs). More seriously, the club was sick but we had a strong group with some international players like Olivier Magne, Gérald Merceron, David Bory… But mayonnaise doesn’t take from a rugby point of view with Alain Hyardet If we compare to 2023 Jono Gibbes inherited a completely unbalanced group in a full reconstruction And we mustn’t forget we were at the start of professionalism in 2004 players probably cared less about career more private than they are today, which is perfectly logical. I also believe that Alain had all the keys to the truck, from the staff to the players, and in some way he was the first trigger for it not working out.”.

Jean-Marc Lhermet took charge of ASM with Jean-Pierre Laparra between September and October 2004.

Jean-Marc Lhermet took charge of ASM with Jean-Pierre Laparra between September and October 2004.
Jean Paul Thomas / Sports Icon – Jean Paul Thomas / Sports Icon

From then on, Jean-Marc Lhermet and Jean-Pierre Laparra had to take control of an ailing team. Alexandre Audebert recalls a period that was more than uncomfortable. “It’s a pain because we’re waiting for Olivier Saïsset to free himself from Perpignan, but there’s no doubt about that because we’re still in full physical preparation”.

The Saïsset Fire Department put out the fire

After just three games, Alain Hyardet was therefore eliminated, opening the door for the inimitable Olivier Saïsset, in October 2004. After four years on the Perpignan bench, and losing in the final against Stade Français last summer, Biterrois is at heart putting down his briefcase with thick glasses, a cigarette in his mouth and “incomparable banter.”

Firefighters from Catalonia had to put out an emerging fire with an effective recipe: go back to basics and reset completely. A method that was only effective three days a week, as Saïsset had to commute between Clermont and Béziers every week for “personal reasons”.

Alexandre Audebert, here against Perpignan in 2007.

Alexandre Audebert, here against Perpignan in 2007.
Manuel Blondeau / Sport Icon – Manuel Blondeau / Sport Icon

“When Olivier arrived it was a new season starting. His first speech was simple: “what’s behind, now we must move forward without looking in the rearview mirror”. He enacted a complete re-arrangement of roles, from executive to youth to them. who lacked playing time. With him, it’s do or die. Olivier is very efficient and he provides a very basic framework for the basics with his mischievous humor and way of getting the message across. And that’s what happens a lot Commitment to fight over the defence, then we’ll see how we play in. In fact, he’s only at the club when the whole team is complete, so it shouldn’t be a big problem. remember Alexandre Audebert.

Back on the lineup, the Montferrand band went on to make an impressive comeback in the Top 16. The Jaunards ended the 2004–2005 financial year with fourteen wins, seven losses and a draw since taking over from Olivier Saïsset and clinching the identical seventh place with qualification for the European Cup.

An unexpected result in the fall of 2004, and a total success for the firefighters of Saïsset, who then left Auvergne for his beloved city of Béziers. Eighteen years later, the helmeted former third-in-line expects a similar scenario for Christophe Urios, Jono Gibbes’ successor. “That’s all the loss I wish for the club! Today, we have to save the furniture. Before looking too far ahead, the players must quickly fit into the new mold, even if they really like Jono” concluded Aubebert.

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