Scott Robertson's only point left to prove is NZR got it wrong
You look forward to Scott Robertson beating the All Blacks.
Which other test team he’s coaching – and when that first victory over New Zealand comes – remains to be seen, but it’s time for Robertson to emerge on the international stage.
The 46-year-old’s domestic apprenticeship was done years ago. The man is a winner, as he’s shown with Canterbury, the Crusaders and the New Zealand under-20 side.
The only point left to prove is that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) got it wrong when they appointed Ian Foster to succeed Steve Hansen.
Robertson was made a fool of during that process. Someone had to give Foster’s coronation an air of contestability and Roberston was the bloke who fell for it.
No amount of Super Rugby titles will ease the pain of that humiliation. Maybe even ascending to that All Blacks’ job one day won’t do it.
All Robertson can do is rub NZR’s nose in it, potentially starting with a stint with the British and Irish Lions.
Who knows if their scheduled tour to South Africa will go ahead next year or if Robertson’s request to join their coaching staff will be accepted. What’s important is that Robertson recognises where his future lies and reacted to Foster’s appointment by putting out a few feelers.
This isn’t a great time to be an aspiring test coach. Teams have made their post-Rugby World Cup appointments and, thanks to COVID-19, no coach has yet had a chance to blot their copybook.
Robertson might be the best-credentialled candidate around, but he needs test rugby to resume first.
It serves him no purpose to plot another Crusaders campaign or to take up a club contract offshore. If the almost-uninterrupted run of titles with Canterbury and the Crusaders since 2008 aren’t enough to prove his worth, then nothing is.
At least to a nation other than New Zealand.
In announcing the final extension of Hansen’s All Blacks head-coaching contract, then-NZR chief executive Steve Tew said the successor would be someone who’d coached at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Quite why NZR would set their stall on that is anyone’s guess. Perhaps, as it turned out, it was just a means to justify Foster.
We all knew the job was Foster’s. That NZR believed in succession-planning and that Foster was being groomed to move up from assistant to head coach, just as Hansen had.
As time went by and the All Blacks struggled to combat defensive linespeed, you hoped NZR might waver. But even the All Blacks’ inglorious world cup semifinal exit wasn’t enough to dissuade the powers that be from persisting with the process.
Robertson has responded in the only ways he knows how: with dignity, success and ambition.
He didn’t spit the pip and storm out of the country in a huff. He simply (as we know now) gave Lions coach Warren Gatland a shout and got on with claiming another Super Rugby crown.
Quite whether Gatland wants – or is able to – add Robertson to his staff is unclear, but the offer and the expertise is there.
From Robertson’s point of view, you hope it can happen. Frankly, it probably needs to.
He can’t sit and wait for Foster to fail with the All Blacks or wish a similar fate upon international coaches elsewhere. He needs to get into that arena himself and what an introduction a British and Irish Lions tour would be.
Again, there’s no point in Robertson continuing to plug away with the Crusaders. He’s achieved all there is to at Super Rugby level.
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