'He's kept his options open': Crusader's take on Robertson's contract
If there was any coach in rugby union today able to claim similar superstar status to the likes of Pep Guardiola or José Mourinho, it would most likely be Scott Robertson. The man they call ‘Razor’ possesses a quite remarkable winning record as head coach of the Crusaders: 71 wins, 4 draws and 9 losses in five seasons with the franchise.
Since taking over as head coach back in 2017, Robertson has won a total of five consecutive Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, including two Super Rugby Aotearoa titles in 2020 and 2021. Under his guidance, the Crusaders have gone on to build a spectacular new era of dominance, with Robertson rightly claiming plaudits for his management.
The end of 2019, the year of Robertson’s third title with the Crusaders, was to prove a watershed moment for New Zealand rugby. With Sir Steve Hansen leaving the role of All Blacks head coach after a hugely successful stint in charge, New Zealand Rugby were faced with a choice as to who should succeed him. Opting for a policy of continuity from within, Ian Foster landed the role, with Robertson missing out.
Objectively however, any disappointment felt by Robertson didn’t appear to show, as he continued to enjoy successes at Super Rugby level, steering the Crusaders to two more titles.
Naturally, with each further success, speculation continued to build as to whether one of New Zealand rugby’s brightest coaching talents might still yet leave, with rumors linking Robertson both to club and international roles abroad.
Last week however, it was announced that after eight months of negotiations, Robertson had chosen to re-sign with the Crusaders until the end of 2024. Reports also indicated that his contract crucially contained an exit clause, allowing him to leave the Crusaders at the end of 2023 if he should wish to do so. That clause, as well as Robertson’s own words as to his ambitions, seem to suggest that some changes might remain to be seen in the world of international rugby management. Ian Foster’s contract of course, is for the time being, set to expire at the end of 2021.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod this week, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall highlighted the obvious benefits his side would gain from Robertson’s decision.
“You’ve got to talk about the successes he’s had, not only with the Crusaders, but with whatever team he’s been a part of,” said Hall. “He’s won multiple championships and I think he’s got a couple more years to be able to keep evolving and keep growing. For me personally as a Crusader, it’s great to have him in the environment for a couple more years. [He clearly still] has new goals and he keeps it fresh.”
Ex-Blues hooker, James Parsons, also saw nothing but positives deriving from Robertson’s contract extension with New Zealand Rugby and the Crusaders.
“I think we’re very fortunate that he’s staying,” said Parsons. “I love that it signals that he’s going to leave no stone unturned to have a crack at that All Blacks role. The thing I like about him is that he does seem to keep things fresh. He’s always innovating or doing something different, thinking outside the box … I think that’s what makes him so successful and I think that [him staying] can only be a good thing for our game here in New Zealand.”
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) July 13, 2021
Crucially for Robertson, his exit clause should allow for the desired amount of flexibility if his hopes of taking the top role in New Zealand rugby fall through.
As well as enjoying NPC successes as head coach of Canterbury, Robertson has also seen success at junior international level, guiding the New Zealand U20s to their fifth World Rugby U20 Championship title back in 2015.
Providing some insight into his head coach, Hall identified some of the aspects of Razor’s style that have seen him be so successful thus far as a coach.
“Theming is a big part of his coaching style,” said Hall. “Razor plays a massive part in bringing a group together for a goal, and I think [a theme] makes it a little bit more meaningful, you can connect with that theme throughout the year … his ability to be able to connect back to that theme is a big part of why we all connect [as a side] and have been able to go forward and play really well and win games.”
Aside from building that clear team vision, Hall also identified Robertson’s desire to have all bases covered in his coaching setup – for the betterment of the players and himself as a head coach.
“I think he’s got a really good ability, [with] the strengths that he doesn’t have, to bring people in to do that for him,” commented Hall. “The likes of Scott Hansen, Brad Mooar … and he also thinks outside the box [bringing in] the likes of Ronan O’Gara. He’s able to have an ideal overall picture for us as a group and even with the weaknesses that he does have, he’s got a really good ability of having coaches around him that are able to help with that.”
Time will tell how Robertson’s future plans will pan out, but for the time being, Crusaders fans will undoubtedly be excited by the potential for more titles (and more breakdancing) with Razor at the helm.
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