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'He's kept his options open': Crusader's take on Robertson's contract

By Sam Smith
Scott Robertson. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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The panel of Ross Karl, James Parsons and Bryn Hall discuss all the action from around the world of rugby on this week’s episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

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The panel of Ross Karl, James Parsons and Bryn Hall discuss all the action from around the world of rugby on this week’s episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

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.

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“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.”

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.

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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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J
Jon 1 hours ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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