Opinion: At last! Robertson decision a triumph of common sense

Scott Robertson, pictured at his favourite surf break near his home in Sumner, Christchurch.

So it’s Razor. As if it could be anyone else after the record he has created, the years he has put in.

It remains to be seen whether New Zealand Rugby’s decision is a triumph – sport has a habit of creating surprises, thankfully – but if nothing else it should be seen as a triumph of common sense and that currency has not been in plentiful supply within that organisation over the past few years.

Jamie Joseph was a worthy rival for his success and innovation with Japan alongside Tony Brown but if Scott Robertson had not been selected as the All Blacks head coach from next year it would have been a strong rebuke of its own domestic competition (and “pathways”, to borrow NZR jargon) and the loyalty Robertson has shown to the game here.

The Crusaders have won the Super Rugby championship every year under Robertson since he took over for the 2017 season and succeeded in his first attempt in the final against the Lions in Johannesburg. It remains his most special – maybe because it was the first but more so because it was done in enemy territory.

It was the first of six.

They were at it again in the final minutes at Eden Park against the Blues as recently as Saturday night. The Crusaders probably should have lost that game when defending a six-point lead in the face of fiercely determined Blues’ attacks in front of an increasingly excited crowd, but they defied the opposition and maybe the doubters, too, who wondered at their early-season form.

The visitors were helped by the Blues’ two injured props in the first quarter but while they were also assisted by the mistakes from Blues lock James Tucker and loose forward Hoskins Sotutu, who were both awarded tries before replays showed they had dropped the ball in the act of scoring, that wasn’t all down to luck.

Giving up is not acceptable for professional athletes, but, let’s just say there are degrees of separation between not trying and full commitment.

Crusaders Willi Heinz, left, and Richie Mo'unga knock the ball from Hoskins Sotutu's grasp in a key moment at Eden Park on Saturday.

Ethan Blackadder, one of the busiest players on the pitch, could have been excused for not straining every sinew in a last-ditch tackle against Tucker. The same applies to halfback Willi Heinz, who flung himself at the much bigger Sotutu to knock the ball away with a little help from Crusaders and All Blacks No.10 Richie Mo’unga.

What makes Robertson’s teams so special? The way they rise to the big moments and play for each other with an intensity and single-mindedness that never gets in the way of creativity and self-expression.

That’s not an easy balance to strike but one of Robertson’s gifts is the way he empowers his players, young and old to play with that commitment and freedom.

He is the skateboarding, surfing, break-dancer and the best Super Rugby coach New Zealand has produced, a man of quirks and contrasts and an undefinable x-factor.

It couldn’t have been anyone else.


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