Scott Robertson reveals the Springboks-style ‘evolution’ that could benefit the All Blacks

Colin Newboult
New All Blacks boss Scott Robertson coaching the Barbarians.

New All Blacks boss Scott Robertson.

All Blacks’ new head coach Scott Robertson admits that kicking is absolutely key to success and that it could influence his game plan going forward.

New Zealand have become renowned as the great entertainers in the game, with their ability to score tries from anywhere, but it has not helped in the past two Rugby World Cups.

The 2019 and 2023 global tournaments were won by South Africa, who based their game on set-piece, defence and kicking.

In the World Cup final in October, Handre Pollard kicked four from four off the tee, while the All Blacks counted the cost of misses from Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett as they succumbed 12-11 in the showpiece event.

Although Robertson will obviously not use the Springboks’ blueprint for his team, the Crusaders legend understands that having an elite set-piece and quality goal-kicker is paramount.

The pillars of New Zealand’s success

When the New Zealanders were dominant, between 2011 and 2015, those were facets they excelled in thanks to having an incredible front five and the greatest fly-half ever in Dan Carter.

Their improvement in 2023 also directly coincided with the development of talented props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax, who gave them a solid platform to work from.

The All Blacks’ point of difference still lies in their ball in hand skills, but Robertson realises that there is more to international rugby than that.

“Test football is a game of strength, and then you’ve got the World Cup which is a game of finals and strengths, and that’s what they (Springboks) played to,” he told The Breakdown.

“They’re a great defensive side, a great kicking side, a great set-piece side and they kicked the goals to win.

“The majority of major events where kicking is involved finishes with a kick to win it, if it’s soccer, American football, rugby, rugby league. There’s critical ones where it’s won off the foot, and they won it off the foot.

“It’s incredibly small margins at that level. They went back to what they are good at and that’s the shape of the game.”

The key thing for Robertson is adaptability and still being able to emerge victorious when not playing their free-flowing style.

“You change the game while still being brave and playing. That could be your strength. The big part for me this year is to win and evolve, so that we can win in two or three different ways,” he said.

“That’s the key to bring success over a four-year period.”

Key positions

Another crucial aspect of Robertson’s job this year is finding the replacements for some of the legendary players that have departed.

At the top of the list is at lock, where Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock formed one of the great partnerships, and scrum-half, with Aaron Smith now not available.

“We’ve talked about the locks. When you lose two, you’re going to have to bring one or two back in. We’ve still got Patrick (Tuipulotu) there when he comes back. He’s a champion. When he’s on form, he’s a great player,” he added.

“At half-back, with Aaron Smith you’re not going to replace him, but someone’s got to go and own it. We’ve got some good players in a number of teams coming through.”

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