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How New Zealand Rugby's deal with Silver Lake could impact Scott Robertson's future

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson says New Zealand Rugby’s [NZR] deal with private equity giants Silver Lake could play a decisive role in his coaching future.


Robertson is off-contract with the Crusaders at the end of this year, and has been open about his ambitions to coach at the highest level of the game.

That was reflected in his application for the All Blacks head coach role following the 2019 World Cup, but NZR instead opted to sign Ian Foster on a two-year deal.

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Former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith on how private investment could save rugby in New Zealand
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Former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith on how private investment could save rugby in New Zealand

Since then, Robertson has won a fourth title in as many years with the Crusaders and looks set to claim an unprecedented five-peat with the Christchurch-based franchise as speculation continues to swirl about his future abroad.

Some have linked the 46-year-old’s name to the England job as Eddie Jones faces mounting pressure following a disastrous Six Nations campaign that saw his side finish fifth, but there will be a strong desire to keep Robertson on Kiwi shores.

Few have a coaching CV like Robertson, who has found success everywhere he has been since he entered the professional coaching ranks as Canterbury assistant coach in 2008.

Eight provincial titles, as both an assistant and head coach, followed, as did a World Rugby U20 Championship in 2015, and he is now charging towards a fifth straight championship with the Crusaders in his fifth year in charge.


That impressive run of success has made the former All Blacks loose forward hot property on the global coaching market, and he stands as a frontrunner for the All Blacks head coach job once Foster’s tenure with the side expires.

Whether or not he usurps the current All Blacks boss could depend on the outcome of NZR’s Silver Lake deal, though, as Robertson suggested to media on Wednesday.

“The next couple of days is pretty big around the Silver Lake deal. We are getting close, but the Silver Lake deal is a pretty important part of re-signing,” Robertson said on the prospect of continuing his time in New Zealand and with the Crusaders.

“Like I’ve said before, with the agent, he’s a pretty patient type, it’s a long game for him just around what’s happening with New Zealand Rugby, just making sure the timing is right.”


NZR’s deal with Silver Lake, which would give the American technology investment company a 15 percent stake in the organisation’s commercial rights, is understood to be worth $465 million.

The potential deal would inject some much-needed cash into the game across New Zealand, both at professional and amateur levels, but NZR has met resistance from the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association [NZRPA] and some of the country’s top players.

Led by NZRPA chairman David Kirk and chief executive Rob Nichol, opponents of the deal cited concerns about the relationship with fans as well as the safety of the Maori and Pasifika game in a letter to NZR.

Representatives from both NZR and the NZRPA will meet with a mediator on Wednesday in a bid to work through the stand-off between the two organisations, but Robertson wouldn’t be drawn into whether he shared those concerns of the players.

“Just see what it [the deal] means, if it is or isn’t [accepted], and what does it look like on the side of that with the next All Blacks role coming up,” he said when asked why the Silver Lake deal will play a key role in his decision to re-sign or not.

He added that while he has enjoyed his time with the Crusaders, re-committing himself to the franchise through until the next World Cup in 2023 wouldn’t align with his international career ambitions.

“It’s pretty clear; if I sign a couple more years, I’ll have done the Crusaders for seven years – which I love doing – but what does it mean for the next step after that?

“How does that line up around the 2023 World Cup if this coaching group stays on? So, there’s a lot of things going on; a lot of answers to come back.

“I’ve been really patient here. I’ve been coming down to Rugby Park since 2008 in some role as a coach. We’ve got a great lifestyle, but I’m also ambitious career coach.

“So, for me to have the opportunity, if it’s here or elsewhere, you always keep looking at those opportunities.”

Whether that means he is in line to succeed Jones at Twickenham, a notion former England boss Sir Clive Woodward heralded earlier this week, remains to be seen, but Robertson said that being linked to such a “special” role was “flattering”.

“It’s pretty flattering to be mentioned [for] international jobs – especially a role like that. It comes with a bit of honour and prestige to lead someone’s country, so to be held in that regard is pretty special.”


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