'Loyal' Robertson could well change course
COACHING: When Scott Robertson called time on his playing career in New Zealand, the maverick loose forward headed offshore in search of new challenges. Now, as one of the most respected coaches in world rugby, Robertson could be set to do the same at the end of 2021.
Robertson will take charge of the Crusaders for a fifth campaign next year, having guided the side to four Super Rugby titles on the trot. It could also be his last campaign in charge, with his contract set to wrap up at the end of the season.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Robertson does re-sign with the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby, but that certainly shouldn’t be taken as a given – especially not after the 46-year-old missed out on the All Blacks head coach role to Ian Foster.
A big factor in Foster’s elevation from All Blacks assistant coach to the head position was reportedly due to his international experience. Foster had spent eight years supporting Steve Hansen, amassing 93 wins and the 2015 Rugby World Cup title over that period.
Robertson, on the other hand, has spent his entire coaching career in New Zealand – first with Canterbury and the New Zealand Under 20s side, and now with the Crusaders.
But speaking on Sky Sports’ The Conversation podcast, Robertson has revealed that international experience could be coming thick and fast in the near future.
“One of my goals is actually to win every competition as a coach as I played in as a player, that’s one of the things I want to do,” he told hosts Rikki Swannell and Joey Wheeler.
Robertson has already achieved that with Canterbury, accumulating three NZ provincial titles between 2013 and 2016, while his time with the Crusaders has reaped similar rewards.
Having represented the All Blacks from 1998 to 2002, Robertson presumably hopes to one day nab all the trophies on offer to the New Zealand national side, including a Rugby World Cup.
Robertson played at the 1999 World Cup when the All Blacks were defeated by France at the semi-finals stage of the competition then bested by South Africa in the bronze play-off.
Following his time in New Zealand, Robertson represented Perpignan in France and Black Rams in Japan – which sheds some light on where the in-demand coach likely sees his future.
Robertson has never shied away from the fact that he’d love to return to France in a coaching capacity and almost took up an opportunity to coach Biarritz a number of years ago before taking over at the Crusaders.
Meanwhile, one of Robertson’s mentors, Robbie Deans, has been a long-serving coach with Panasonic in the Top League, which adds another carrot to a potential stint in Japan.
Despite his contract coming to an end next year, however, Robertson has openly said he’d like to continue with the Crusaders, at least in the short-term – and the Crusaders will almost certainly want to keep him on. There are no guarantees, however, and eventually Robertson will say enough is enough – especially if his pathway to coaching the All Blacks remains blocked.
“That’s what I’d like to do [stay on with the Crusaders],” said on The Conversation. “I’d like to. I want to stay loyal.”
“Look, I’ve still got aspirations to go higher and some of those things are outside of my control… There’s going to be a point where I’m just going to say ‘Thanks’ and go another direction, go to [France]. Go where I want to go.”
In the meantime, however, Robertson is looming as the likely coach for the Barbarians when they take on the Warren Gatland-coached British and Irish Lions next year, before joining the Lions’ tour to South Africa.
“We’ve had some good conversations the last couple of weeks around the opportunity. I’m looking at potentially being involved with the team, that could play against the Springboks and then stay on in some capacity.
“It wasn’t an assistant role I was wanting, it was a learning opportunity for me, [to] help a lot around the professional development and support their current coaching group, it wasn’t about being an assistant as such.
“Those conversations are continuing … it’s a highly likely chance, I’m finding ways I can get there.”
Scott Robertson’s playing and coaching history:
1995 – Bay of Plenty
1996 – 2003 Canterbury
1996 – 2003 Crusaders
1998 – 2002 All Blacks
2003 – 2006 Perpignan
2006 – 2007 Black Rams
2013 – 2016 Canterbury
2015 – 2016 New Zealand U20
2007 – 2021 Crusaders