Scott Robertson will take over as the new All Blacks head coach after the 2023 Rugby World Cup after unprecedented success with the Crusaders.
The Crusaders’ head coach has signed a four-year deal to take over New Zealand’s coaching reins from 2024 until the 2027 Rugby World Cup, replacing Ian Foster.
Planet Rugby highlights 13 things you might not know about the incoming head coach.
Born Scott Maurice Robertson on 21 August 1974 in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, Robertson hails from the North Island of New Zealand.
He made his first-class debut in the National Provincial Championship (NPC) with Bay of Plenty in 1995. A versatile player, Robertson quickly made a name for himself as a hard-hitting, abrasive back-rower.
His distinctive fair hair and playing style earned him comparisons to then-Springbok captain Francois Pienaar.
He was an instant hit at Bay of Plenty, playing 16 times in his first season – and five times for the New Zealand Colts – scoring three tries.
Playing days with Canterbury and the Crusaders
Robertson did not feature in the Crusaders’ first three teamsheets of Super Rugby but made his debut in the side’s first game against South African opposition – the Stormers, then still playing under the Western Province name.
His first taste of Super Rugby was unsuccessful, as the two sides finished all square at 16-16 at Lancaster Park.
The North Island youngster quickly became a regular on the South Island, transferring to Canterbury for the NPC too.
A powerful flanker in his own right, Robertson had stiff competition in the Canterbury and Crusaders loose trio competing against the likes of Todd Blackadder, Angus Gardiner (not the current referee), Steve Surridge, Reuben Thorne and Sam Broomhall.
Still, he made 86 appearances for the side in Super Rugby and 69 NPC games for Canterbury between 1996 and 2003.
He was a regular in the Crusaders team that won three successive Super Rugby titles between 1998 and 2000, as well as in 2002.
He also won NPC titles with Canterbury in each of the years from 1997 to 2001 and played a prominent role in defending the Ranfurly Shields between 2000 and 2003.
All Blacks career
Despite jostling for a position in the Crusaders starting lineup, he did get recognition with the national selectors, particularly after his performances for the New Zealand Colts.
In August 1998, Robertson made his Test debut for the All Blacks coming off the bench against the Wallabies, debuting at 23 years and 345 days old. He earned three Test caps that year, all from the reserves.
He cracked the nod for the All Blacks squad for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and featured among the replacements against Italy in a pool match.
The following year, he was groomed as Josh Kronfeld’s successor in the number seven jumper but failed to capitalise on his opportunity and was dropped from the side only to return in late 2001.
He featured at number eight for the All Blacks in 2002, but the likes of Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo surpassed him in the pecking order, and he missed the opportunity to go to the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
He played 23 Tests in total for New Zealand.
After the 2003 Super Rugby season, Robertson headed abroad, signing with Top 14 outfit Perpignan.
During his three seasons with the side, he played over 50 times, including an appearance off the bench in the Top 14 final against Stade Francais in 2004.
Perpignan would go on to lose that match 20-38 to a Stade Francais side stacked with stars like Agustín Pichot, Diego Domínguez, Christophe Dominici, Juan Martín Hernández and Mauro Bergamasco.
He left France in 2006, joining Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams, who he would represent until retirement in 2007.
Surfing and injuries
It’s well-documented that Robertson loves to surf. However, his professional rugby career took its toll on his body.
He has had nine operations on his right knee, forcing him to switch from shortboard surfing to stand-up paddle boarding.
Family and dyslexia
While Robertson doesn’t have a pro rugby family like the Barretts or Whitelocks, he is related by marriage to the Wallaby captain of the 1960s and 70s, Greg Davis.
He has three children with his wife, Jane Robertson, who assists Scott in combating his dyslexia.
“She is incredible; we have been together for 20 years. She understands me, how I work and what message I am trying to get across,” Robertson told Stuff in 2017.
“She helps to make sense of my thoughts, and we have found a way that works best for me in regards to that I am a bullet-point and pictures man. I use pictures so people can get connected – emotionally connected.”
How did Scott Robertson get his nickname?
New Zealand rugby is well known for their nicknames. Sir Steve Hansen is known as ‘Shag’, former full-back Ben Smith dubbed ‘The Accountant’ and ‘Bender’, and Aaron Smith ‘Nuggy’, but how did Robertson get his name?
During his playing days, he became a cult figure in Crusaders country, but his nickname originated from the training ground.
In an interview with Rugby World Magazine, he explained that he came up with the nickname himself after a tackle on Brumbies back Pat Howard.
“I cut Pat Howard in half. I said: ‘You see that, boys? It was like he ran into a blade, a razor blade. That’s my right shoulder!’ So it was a bit of self-promotion,” Robertson explained.
After retiring as a player in 2007, Robertson returned to New Zealand to kick start his coaching career, and Rob Penney would give him his breakthrough at Canterbury.
He worked as Canterbury’s defence coach under Penney between 2008 and 2012 before becoming the side’s head coach in 2013.
Robertson won three NPC titles with Canterbury during his four years in charge before applying to replace Todd Blackadder as the Crusaders’ boss.
During his 48 games in charge of the Canterbury side, he won 38 games and lost nine for an 81% winning rate.
New Zealand U20s
During his time as Canterbury’s head coach, Robertson also served as the head coach of the New Zealand under U20s.
During his first season in charge, the side won the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy. However, the team failed to make the playoffs in his second year at the helm.
Robertson was one of the leading contenders for the Crusaders’ head coaching role when Blackadder vacated the position at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby campaign to join Bath.
He did face stiff competition from now-Harlequins coach Tabai Matson and Dave Hewett.
However, he convinced the appointment panel that included Mark Robinson, now the NZ Rugby chief executive, he could bring silverware back to the Crusaders, who hadn’t won Super Rugby since 2008.
He immediately delivered results winning the 2017 Super Rugby final by defeating the Lions 25-17. Robertson became just the second coach in the tournament’s history to win the competition in his first season in charge after Dave Rennie in 2012 with the Chiefs.
Since then, the Crusaders have dominated the tournament, with Robertson guiding the side to six Super Rugby crowns in as many years.
At the time of his appointment as All Blacks coach (21/03/2023), Robertson boasts a remarkable record of 87 wins, four draws and 14 losses as Crusaders head coach. He is also just two wins shy of Robbie Deans’ record for the most wins in Crusaders history.
He has a win ratio of 84 per cent as the Super Rugby side’s head coach and an overall record of 88 per cent across all his head coaching roles.
Ambition to coach abroad
While the pinnacle of many New Zealand coaches is to coach the All Blacks, Robertson had other ideas.
In 2022, he revealed his ambition to coach two teams to Rugby World Cup glory.
“I want to win a Rugby World Cup, but I want to win it with two different countries,” he told the Rugby Pod. “I haven’t said it publicly before, but I have now.
The incoming All Blacks head coach also told English author Peter Bills, in his book Le Coq: A Journey to the Heart of French Rugby, that he wants to win the Top 14 one day and would be open to coaching France.
“One of the reasons I went to France was to learn their language and understand about their culture,” Robertson said of his time with Perpignan.
“I did that, but now it is one of my personal goals to go back someday to win the Bouclier [Top 14 trophy, the Bouclier de Brennus]. Or even coach the French team.
“I would love to do that; it would be a great challenge for me. Something entirely different.”
One of the most widely known things about Scott Robertson is his celebrations.
The incoming All Blacks head coach is renowned for his post-title-clinching celebrations.
We first saw his breakdancing antics when he won the U20 World Championship with New Zealand.
However, it has since become a tradition for the coach to bust a move whenever his side secures a title, which is often in the Crusaders’ case.
Scott Robertson’s award lists
5 NPC titles
Ranfurly Shield winner
86 Super Rugby caps
4 Super Rugby titles
23 Test caps
2003 Rugby World Cup squad member
3 NPC titles
New Zealand u20s
2015 U20 Championship winner
6 Super Rugby titles