Whitelock, Reece injuries bring Razor back down to earth at Crusaders

Sam Whitelock carries the ball against the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday.

All Blacks head coach elect Scott Robertson had an early night at home in Sumner with his relieved family after his momentous day in Wellington but has arrived at the Crusaders’ Rugby Park headquarters this morning with some bad news from veteran lock Sam Whitelock, who has a broken hand, and wing Sevu Reece, who has a "serious" knee injury.

Whitelock’s injury, suffered in the Crusaders’ thrilling 34-28 victory over the Blues at Eden Park at the weekend, will rule him out for several weeks, starting with his side’s home match against the unbeaten Brumbies on Friday night.

Reece limped from the Eden Park pitch with what was initially thought to be an ankle problem but has now been confirmed as a potentially long-term knee injury.

The injuries will also interest current All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, who is in the bizarre position of watching from France, where he is on a fact-finding trip ahead of the World Cup while his successor enjoys his time in the spotlight in the midst of a Super Rugby season.

Whitelock's rehabilitation might take up to eight weeks but Reece's may take far longer. The World Cup kicks off in Paris in less than six months.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson confirmed on Breakfast this morning that he still hadn’t spoken to Foster after Robertson yesterday signed a four-year contract to replace the incumbent at the start of 2024.

It is a unique scenario which Foster says has adversely affected his management team and it led to respected commentator Scotty Stevenson saying on Breakfast this morning: "Pretty tough revealing your mistress while your wife’s on holiday in Paris."

Robertson, back in his Crusaders colours after fronting the media yesterday in a sober dark suit and black tie, said he wasn’t sure what sort of reception he was going to get from his squad of defending champions, who include 12 All Blacks.

He said he had been open with his ambitions and the process which saw him deliver his All Blacks pitch twice – once in front of the interview panel which included former All Blacks midfielder Conrad Smith, and once in front of the board. He felt he was far more polished the second time.

Scott Robertson during his unveiling as All Blacks head coach elect in Wellington yesterday.

“I was really open with the team,” he said. “After the game on Saturday night I said ‘I’ve got an All Black interview on the Monday’. A couple of them already knew. ‘Oh okay.’ They’d obviously been canvassed. They said, ‘we’re right behind you’.”

He cut a relieved figure today but was clearly eager to return to the grass with a whistle in hand, adding the messages he had received from former players, colleagues and friends were overwhelming.

“I haven’t had a chance to reply to everyone,” he said. “I will get back to you. It means a lot.

“They’re a big part of your career and your life,” Robertson said of his former players, including Israel Dagg. “They’re good friends. You build close relationships with people so to get heart-felt messages means a lot.

“There have been a lot of hugs already,” he said of his arrival at Crusaders HQ. “A lot of man hugs.”

The news was significant in many ways. The top gig in the country is Robertson’s after three times of trying and it means he has some certainty about his future.

“[Wife] Jane was like me, she was relieved," he said. "It’s big, because if you don’t get the job you’re on the road. She can be here now with the family so that was a big one.

“I had to tell Dad three times I’d got the job – ‘are you sure? ‘Yeah’. There was a lot of confirmation. ‘But it’s not in the paper’, yeah because there hasn’t been any media yet. It was entertaining."

Robertson can now fully focus on winning a seventh title in seven years with the Crusaders and it’s understood he will have a hand in the selection of his successor in Christchurch.

A leading candidate will be Andrew Goodman, the former Crusaders assistant and Tasman head coach who left after last season to take up a job with Leicester.

There will be questions too about Scott Hansen’s future at the Crusaders. Hansen, a former Linwood halfback, has struck a close working relationship with Robertson and has impressed with his level-headed analytical skills.

Robertson has yet to reveal his assistants at the All Blacks – Blues coach Leon MacDonald was thought to be in the mix – with Jason Ryan, the current all Blacks forwards coach and a former Crusaders assistant, likely to retain his position.


More Stories