Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson and his red-and-black machine will attempt to go for five championships in a row – Super Rugby and Aotearoa combined – at their home ground on Saturday.
Robertson is the coach with the Midas touch. In every team he has been involved with, silverware has followed, and you’d be a brave man to bet against the Crusaders doing it again.
Some will argue that he has always worked with exceptional players, and that anybody could coach the Crusaders squad to a title. It’s a moot point because under Robertson’s gaze, the Crusaders have been relentless.
His ability to get even more out of already great players such as Sam Whitelock, for example, is a testament to his genius as a coach. He can make a great player raise the level of his game further.
Only the very gifted coaches in this world have that unique ability. Think of Pep Guardiola in football or Phil Jackson in basketball. They are mavericks, and Robertson certainly breakdances to the beat of his own drum.
He is credited first and foremost – along with his loyal coaching staff – for creating an environment of fun at the training ground. Fun is not a word you’d probably associate with a professional rugby club.
However, as Robertson told the Rugby Pass podcast in 2017: “I’m not big on fear ruling, I want to make sure that we enjoy it, we have fun, and people want to come to work and engage to be better. So there are a lot of things. There’s always a part of the day that’s not dedicated to rugby, it’s about having fun.”
But that certainly doesn’t mean that hard truths cannot be spoken as the players themselves have testified that Robertson is brutally honest with them in his estimations. Robertson said: “I’m doing it for them to be better. So I tell ’em I love ’em and tell them that they need to be better. And I think they get it and they like that. They don’t want to be dropped or hear second hand or have it be unclear to them.”
This only adds to an environment of trust within the playing group and staff, which in turn adds to their fabric as a championship team consistently striving to be better for themselves and for the group.
He has created a synergy between the individual striving for his own personal accolades but always doing so in a way that benefits the overall objective of the team.
The style and philosophy of how the Crusaders play is so often a joy to watch, the mantra of KBA (keep ball alive) is at the centre of this team.
ESPN recently asked Wayne Smith what makes them so special. Smith professed: “They’re way more efficient at what they do. They re-set quickly, they fill the width of the field, they come forward, they are more likely to give an offload into a hole and once they’re through that hole they’re more likely to have support players carrying the play on so they’re more likely to score off a break than any other team.”
So while Robertson has created a fun environment for his players to grow in, let’s not forget his acute feel and awareness for the game and how it’s evolving cannot be underestimated.
Robertson has always themed his campaigns for the players to set individual and team goals to be achieved during the season. One such example was Muhammad Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle. Ali spent nine years in the wilderness before coming back and winning the world heavyweight title.
When Robertson took over as head coach of the Crusaders, it had been nine years since the Crusaders had won a Super Rugby championship. He is able to see elements other coaches cannot. He is a big picture man if ever there was one. All of these elements put together make for a coach who is destined to be a winner, and Robertson’s own ambition does not seem to be abating anytime soon.
The only people who were truly happy (even relieved) that Robertson was passed over for the All Blacks job were the Crusaders. While rumours have swirled about him taking a job overseas in Europe, he has stuck with the red-and-blacks and built a dynasty of his own.
No doubt he will receive many offers and he would certainly be able to cherry-pick which team he will evolve next. But first, all he and his team will be focused on is beating their nemesis the Chiefs for what would be an unprecedented and relentless dynasty of championships.