Having coached the Crusaders to their fifth straight Super Rugby crown, following three wins with Canterbury’s NPC team, Scott Robertson deserves the top job as All Blacks mentor.
That seems harsh on straight-talking current head coach Ian Foster but Robertson is too good to be allowed to sign with any of New Zealand’s major rivals.
Think of great past coaches like Fred Allen, Brian Lochore, John Hart. Alex “Grizz” Wyllie, Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen and the break dancing Robertson doesn’t play second fiddle to any of them.
He’s quirky but is no clown and has a smart rugby brain and the ability to inspire players to great deeds.
He needed to at Christchurch on Saturday night because Clayton McMillan’s Chiefs played a fiery final that flattered the Crusaders 24-13 final result on a night champion match winner Damian McKenzie missed three penalty goals.
However. the brilliance of Richie Mo’unga and the lineout supremacy of Sam Whitelock deservedly set the foundation for the win, as did the resilience which confined the challengers to three points when they had two men sin-binned.
Great teams have great character and the Crusaders combine that with a set-piece superiority, rugby smarts and a wide-ranging skillset.
However Robertson acknowledges the Chiefs’ superiority at the breakdown where Luke Jacobson and Lachlan Boshier have Richie McCaw-ball-pilfering traits.
Under McMillan’s astute coaching, they’re a team to watch out for unless the return of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland transforms them to the mediocrity that saw them lose 11 straight before McMillan gave them the kiss of life.
With hooker Codie Taylor enjoying his best season and surpassing the gifted but hot-headed Dane Coles as our best hooker, the Crusaders pack remains strong despite being bested by the Highlanders and Chiefs in rare defeats earlier in the season.
Last Saturday night Mo’unga was at his sublime best, reading the game so well, kicking astutely and making scathing breaks with his acceleration and twinkle-toed footwork.
Versatile David Havili has shone at second-five, centre Leicester Fainga’anuku is a Ngani Laumape-like powerhouse and Sevu Reece and George Bridge are outstanding wings.
Add to that the sheer brilliance of fullback Will Jordon – whose clash with the mercurial Damian McKenzie was a finals highlight – and the Crusaders are the complete package.
Jordan and Reece scored first half Crusaders tries and McKenzie replied in kind for the Chiefs. But whereas McKenzie could only convert his try and add two penalties, Mo’unga converted one, added three penalties and a dropped goal.
With the Brumbies and Reds playing outstanding, entertaining rugby this season, the Trans-Tasman series should be much more interesting than many had thought.
It should also provide underachievers like the Blues and Hurricanes another chance to get their act together.
Meanwhile, although Lydia Ko’s final round 71 saw her drop to 11th in the latest event in Thailand, the LPGA continues to provide rich entertainment.
Although the rise of so many South Koreans has done so much to raise the standard, the last few years have shown the Jutanugarn sisters are not the only Thais capable of footing it with the best.
In finishing with a dazzling 63 for 22-under, Ariya Jutanugarn wept tears of joy upon beating 18-year-old countrywoman Atthaya Thitikul by one shot with fellow Thai, Patty Tavatanakit, in a four-way tie for third, one shot back.
Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer.