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It was put up or shut up for a few All Blacks at Ellis Park

By Hamish Bidwell
Sam Cane with the Freedom Cup following the All Blacks' win over the Springboks in Johannesburg. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP) (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

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So now our sainted All Blacks are fairly and squarely behind their coach.

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Well, where were they last week? What about the two games before that or the last two of last season?

Did they not back him then?

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They win one game and suddenly they’re all Ian Foster fanatics? Spare me.

Look, I don’t know what happened to South Africa. I don’t know why they dropped Trevor Nyakane or relegated Malcolm Marx to the bench. I don’t know what to make of their crazy selections and haphazard substitutions and wonder if there are political imperatives at play.

More than anything I can’t, for the life of me, understand why they sought to beat the All Blacks at their own game at Ellis Park.

Maybe they got drunk on praise, maybe they thought they were unbeatable. But before All Blacks fans get too giddy on the back of one win themselves, I want to say that I think this was a game that the Springboks gave away.

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I like the boring Boks. I don’t want to see them passing the ball and trying to create line breaks. I can’t believe they went away from what worked so well at Mbombela.

But back to our lot.

Good on them. You’re always a chance in a two-horse race and the All Blacks took theirs. Well done.

But are we honestly trying to pretend that all’s right in the world again and that Ian Foster is a visionary with a platform to now plot a path to Rugby World Cup glory?

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It was put up or shut up for a few All Blacks at Ellis Park. Careers were on the line, not least the coach’s, and the team played pretty well.

But are we so starved of success that we think one game obliterates the memory of all the clobberings that led up to it?

I stand to be corrected, but I think that if New Zealand Rugby (NZR) had a willing and able replacement for Foster, he’d be in charge by now.

It might turn out that NZR are able to talk someone into taking the job, although you have to have doubts about their powers of persuasion.

The public hear and read media complaints about NZR and yawn. An unhappy journalist? Who cares?

But these past few weeks have given fans an insight into what journalists deal with year after year. Little of NZR’s business has ever been done in public – let alone its dirty washing aired – until now.

Well tell me, dear rugby enthusiast, how do you reckon Mark Robinson and company are going? Impressed so far?

They’re in danger of making Foster a sympathetic, even heroic, figure at this rate. I mean Robinson really couldn’t do more to undermine Foster if he tried.

You’d hardly back NZR to run a chook raffle, let alone a multi-billion-dollar business.

I just want to touch on Foster a minute and the “vicious’’ personal criticism he feels he’s been subjected to.

It’s my view that Foster came into the All Blacks’ head coaching role believing he was entitled to the same respect his predecessor Steve Hansen received.

I think he feels he hasn’t been afforded that. That unfair questions about his coaching capabilities have been raised and that there’s been a level of scrutiny placed upon his tenure that didn’t exist on Hansen’s watch.

Even previous media allies have, in Foster’s mind, cruelly turned against him.

Well, respect is earned, just as wins and losses are too. You are your record, when it comes to being head coach, and Foster’s record is a poor one.

Hansen didn’t have to put up with this rubbish, because his teams won. And won well.

Is Foster a potential victim of dissatisfaction with NZR and the “process’’ that saw him appointed coach? Sure. But that wouldn’t have been an issue if Foster’s team had won more often.

Hell, they’ve just won a game now – following an historic run of defeats – and people are suggesting he deserves to hang onto his job.

Winning solves everything and Foster hasn’t done enough of that as a head coach.

If he feels pointing that out is tantamount to picking on him, then perhaps he’s in the wrong profession.

As for the players? They front on the field for the first time in what feels like months and they want to tell us who should be head coach?

Wasn’t recommending the removal of assistants John Plumtree and Brad Mooar enough of an ego trip for them?

To go back to the top, if they are in such strong support of Ian Foster, why didn’t they bother to show it sooner? Why wait till the man’s head was on the chopping block?

The quicker NZR start showing some actual leadership, the quicker we can move on from these questions that continue to hover over the team.

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