Former All Blacks boss John Hart has leapt to the defence of New Zealand Rugby and urged all supporters to get behind the team and coaching staff.
The governing body have been heavily criticised for a number of decisions over the past few years.
For one, Ian Foster’s appointment was not popular with the supporters and they were then left disappointed when he was retained by the governing body.
New Zealand had suffered five defeats in six prior to Saturday’s job-saving 35-23 triumph over South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.
As a result, Foster was given the backing of NZ Rugby, with the 57-year-old set to lead the team into the 2023 World Cup in France.
“There needs to be some defence of the New Zealand union here,” Hart told Newstalk ZB. “They’ve been getting a lot of criticism but I think that’s a little unfair. They’ve now come to a conclusion and in my view they’ve come to a sensible decision.
“They were between a rock and a hard place. They had to do this, go through a process and they did it. In defence of [NZR chief executive] Mark Robinson, he did exactly what he said he was going to do.
“It’s time now we accepted where we are, the vitriol should be over and we should get behind the team and hoping they go to Christchurch and have a good win against Argentina and develop further into the World Cup.”
Hart believes that Foster made an error by not changing his backroom team at the end of last year but insists that the issues within the set-up have since been rectified.
“If we look back, Ian Foster would have to agree himself he probably made a mistake last year by not listening to the review and the questions from players and the concerns the players had about his coaching staff,” he said.
“Now that’s been addressed, probably a bit late, but now it’s addressed and they have what I think is a very good coaching team led by Ian Foster, who you’ve got to say has total support of the players. A team cannot perform like they did at Ellis Park last weekend if they are not united and in support of their coach.
“The introduction of Joe Schmidt on a more direct basis is an outstanding addition to the coaching team. And now with Foster and having two world class assistants in Jason Ryan and Joe Schmidt, I don’t think you can get much better.”
Foster has consistently been publicly backed by the players, who proved that they are still playing for the head coach by producing a superb display last weekend.
Although Hart is wary of gleaning too much information from those social media messages, the 77-year-old does believe that they are genuine.
Want what’s best for the All Blacks
“You’ve got to be careful as there’s always the view that the players have a vested interest in having the coach that is picking them, but there’s a lot of maturity in those senior players as the sort of guys that were standing out and talking – David Havili, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea – they’ve been around a long while and they will want what is best for the All Blacks and to win,” he said.
“They obviously have confidence in Ian Foster and I know they have a lot of confidence in Jason Ryan and certainly Joe Schmidt.
“I wouldn’t underestimate that Joe Schmidt’s been a very influential person already in the last three weeks helping in behind the scenes and the fact he’s going to step up and become an assistant is very good news for New Zealand Rugby leading into the World Cup.”
Hart is also angry at the abuse which Foster has suffered during his time in charge of the All Blacks.
He added: “You’d have to say it takes a toll. There’s no way that would not be affecting him and his family and his friends. I’ve seen some of the vitriol and some of the social media. It’s been awful. It’s not New Zealand.
“We’ve become too negative as a country. We love the All Blacks, they typify what we are. Yeah sure, none of us were happy that they were losing Tests but the personal attacks and what has followed I just don’t think that’s New Zealand. I’ve been very disappointed and strongly in support of helping Ian Foster through that. I do know what it’s like.”