By Lucky Vince Pienaar
The man they call “Razor” Robertson has been the coach of the All Blacks rugby team since the day the World Cup ended, and already it is obvious that there is a new sheriff in town.
His energy and enthusiasm can be felt throughout New Zealand itself and around the rugby world.
And with that new attitude comes the realisation that New Zealand Rugby cost their nation the World Cup.
In June, six months before the World Cup, they decided to send Ian Foster to France as their World Cup coach.
And if that wasn’t already a disaster of note, the way they did it is a classic example of adding insult to injury.
Ian Foster was publicly fired. Under the mantle of avoiding rumours, they announced that Foster’s contract would not be renewed and that Scott Robertson had been appointed.
The message was clear.
“You are not good enough to be the coach,” they said. But then they gave him the toughest task of all. “Now go and win the World Cup,” they added.
Why they didn’t relieve the poor man there and then, is not clear.
For many years Robertson had made it clear that he was ready to be the coach. Ready, willing, and most importantly, available.
Except for the money, of course. It would have meant Foster would have to be paid out for the rest of his contract. It would have cost a packet to get Robertson out of his contract with the Crusaders, so it was probably a financial decision.
It should go down as probably the worst decision of World Cup 2023.
Whether the players on the field, magnificent bunch that they are, decided as a group or as individuals they would play for each other and not for the coach, we don’t know, but it showed in the way they got better and better with every match, reaching their peak in the quarter-finals when they beat Ireland by 28-24.
In the final, two weeks later, they pursued a losing strategy. As we all know, the match could not have been closer, but going for the lineouts instead of taking the penalty kicks for poles, probably cost them the match.
They insisted on sticking to that strategy until it was too late. But what can’t be denied, is that the coach must take responsibility for that. In the changeroom at halftime, Ian Foster crumbled — and did not change the plan.
What we will also never know is whether Razor would have played it differently.
His track record with the Crusaders indicates that he would have changed the strategy. Would Razor, a man who knows about winning, have gone for the win?
There are many great coaches in the world. Andy Farrell of Ireland and Fabien Galthié of France are two of them. But Razor is the one and only coach in the world who can beat Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber.
Four years ahead of the next World Cup, can we predict that we are heading for the biggest showdown in the history of the game?
Pictured above: Scott Robertson.
Image source: X