Deans 'can't lose' watching coaches he mentors in Super final

June 18, 2022

Almost 25 years ago, a young Scott Robertson and Leon MacDonald were embracing each other as Super Rugby teammates.

On Saturday night, they’ll be fierce rivals as the Blues and Crusaders clash for the Super Rugby Pacific title at Eden Park.

So with two guys who have such an interconnected tale, who better to ask about them than their mentor; former Crusaders coach Robbie Deans.

“He's just got a little bit of gold, he's got a way of keeping things simple as he'd say,” Robertson said when asked about Deans’ influence this week.

“Just those messages - really good guidance.”

Deans’ influence is eerily similar in Auckland for MacDonald.

“I talk to him regularly,” MacDonald said.

“I learnt a lot from him around the game, game understanding, a lot about mindset.”

Deans told 1News in Sydney the pair were great Crusaders when they were under his watch.

“[Leon] was a great Crusader, a bloke who could play anywhere, that players trusted,” Deans recalled.

“Resilience and that competitive nature is coming out in his [Blues] group now, you see how they really hold on to their line defensively.”

Opposing coaches Leon MacDonald and Scott Robertson played together for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final defeat to the Blues in 2003.

Deans said Robertson’s play was also expressed in the Crusaders.

“He was always the guy who was offering ideas, challenging, looking for a better way of doing the same thing,” Deans said.

“You see that in his coaching - he's constantly reinventing himself, reinventing the group – and that's their point of difference, the ability to continually evolve.”

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Deans coached the pair for nearly 10 years, through Canterbury's NPC team then title-winning Crusaders in the early to mid 2000s.

When asked what it was about that era that made a lot of those players good coaches, Deans believed the answer was relatively simple.

“The only conclusion that you can draw is that they enjoyed their experience and their time in the game and they want to replicate it and give the next generation the same,” he said.

Both MacDonald and Robertson were quick to praise others like Wayne Smith this week as well for their influence when they were players.

“You had to have your book out - this was in '97,” Robertson recalled.

"[Smith would say] ‘where's ya book, where's ya detail?’ He invited us into meetings, he kept us accountable.”

Now those details will decide a title with two of Deans’ old boys relaunching a crucial New Zealand rugby rivalry.

It’s one that even Deans still feels strongly about.

I'll be happy for either bloke, but probably happier for the Crusaders if they get up!”


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