Scott Robertson narrowly escaped a 'massive' man-eating shark in South Africa... now the All Blacks head coach wants to lead his nation back to the summit of world rugby as they kickstart a new era against England

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For caller All Blacks caput coach, Scott Robertson, being retired successful nan water is simply a precious merchandise from nan stresses of activity – speech from erstwhile he had a adjacent brushwood pinch a ‘massive’, man-eating shark.

These days, aft respective knee operations, nan 49-year-old goes paddle-boarding successful nan mornings, arsenic often arsenic his location and schedule allows. In nan past, surfing was nan activity of prime and it was backmost successful 2018 erstwhile Robertson had what he referred to arsenic ‘my small moment’, successful South Africa.

‘We were a mates of hours southbound of Durban, astatine 1 of nan play resorts – and a tiger shark came out,’ he said. ‘This feline went retired and I was nan past 1 out. Then I saw nan shark. It was big. It was massive. I looked astir and location was no-one there, truthful I conscionable went consecutive up connected my committee and consecutive in, pinch my feet up.

‘I’d conscionable had a small glimpse complete my enarthrosis and it was a large thing. When nan different feline went in, he could person told me! It was adjacent enough. That was my small moment! You are beautiful care-free erstwhile you are successful nan surf but that was conscionable a wee motion (of nan danger).’

Robertson jokingly did an belief of his shaken-up heavy breathing connected nan formation aft he fled nan waves successful a hurry. But nan acquisition didn’t put him disconnected his preferred hobby. Even now, pinch nan onerous task of overseeing nan squad which service arsenic a nationalist obsession successful New Zealand, he takes to nan h2o whenever possible.

New Zealand caput coach Scott Robertson (pictured) enjoys surfing, but only narrowly escaped a man-eating shark successful South Africa successful 2018

He has now been tasked pinch starring New Zealand backmost to nan acme of world rugby

‘There was 10ft (swell) retired location today,’ he said. ‘I would beryllium successful Antarctica now! I do effort to spell out. I still ever cheque nan surf reports. It’s connected my app wherever I go. Some guys play play and I surf. Guys spell to nan gym, I surf aliases swim. I’m a h2o man.’

More than ever, Robertson will worth his marine refuge, arsenic a intends of escaping nan maelstrom of dream and hype. Kiwis expect nan All Blacks to conquer all-comers and they will expect them to people their caller era pinch triumph complete England astatine Forsyth Barr Stadium present connected Saturday.

Having won 7 successive Super Rugby titles pinch nan Christchurch-based Crusaders, Robertson was unveiled arsenic nan adjacent nationalist coach past March – 8 months earlier his doomed predecessor, Ian Foster, defied antagonistic forecasts by reaching a World Cup Final. 

So, nan caller man has had this first Test successful his sights for much than a year. No wonderment he is keyed-up and recognises that nan stakes are high. ‘I realise I've sewage to execute now,’ he said.

If his profession sliding-doors infinitesimal had taken Robertson successful different direction, he mightiness person been present this play successful nan visiting camp. The RFU interviewed him successful November 2022, erstwhile they were succession readying up of nan scheduled extremity of Eddie Jones’ tenure a twelvemonth later. Then nan Australian was abruptly dismissed and Steve Borthwick was recruited from Leicester to switch him astatine short notice.

Despite publically expressing an liking successful nan England job, it yet didn’t rather suit Robertson and his family. What he really wanted was person to home.

‘We were talking astir surviving successful a castle astatine 1 stage; maine and nan missus,’ he joked, erstwhile asked astir England’s interest. ‘I thought astir going to France, but I didn't really want to spell backmost into nine rugby aft my beloved clip pinch nan Crusaders. It was clip for maine to trial myself astatine Test level and nan opportunity came present nan All Blacks. I did person different opportunities, but my feet are here.’

Robertson could person replaced Eddie Jones (pictured) arsenic England caput coach successful 2022

England opted to spell pinch Steve Borthwick (pictured) instead, and Robertson's first crippled successful complaint of nan All Blacks will beryllium against Borthwick's men connected Saturday

When pressed connected why taking complaint of England didn’t suit him, he added: ‘There are a batch of factors; your kids’ age, your wife. We’d spent 3 years successful France and a twelvemonth successful Japan. You understood what it was for illustration to bring kids over, past you’re successful nan adjacent shape of your life. You spell heavy successful each those areas, what suited us, and it wouldn't. My first prime was wherever I americium now. I’m pleased I stayed successful that conflict and present we are.’

Robertson has gained nickname and acclaim acold beyond nan Canterbury region connected New Zealand’s southbound island, wherever he masterminded a title-winning aureate age. At nan clip nan RFU were inviting him complete for a chat astatine Twickenham, nan Kiwi free tone had resumed his coaching confederation pinch erstwhile Crusaders adjunct Ronan O’Gara, connected behalf of nan Barbarians. The brace surely embraced nan existent ethos of nan invitational team, judging by nan hungover floor plan pictures which emerged.

The images went viral, causing overmuch amusement and Robertson recalled nan episode, saying: ‘My goodness gracious. I don’t do societal media, but I was shown it. He looked worse than me!’ The relevance of nan acquisition was that nan ensuing triumph complete a New Zealand XV showed really Robertson tin activity wonders successful a short time, which is what he has to do here.

He is dyslexic and that has had a base connected nan measurement successful which he goes astir his coaching. There is an accent connected utilizing images and clear, little instructions. ‘That is really I person ever worked,’ he said. ‘I americium not awesome astatine admin. I conscionable talk to pictures and bring them alive.’

Before his master profession began, Robertson enjoyed a formative acquisition successful Northern Ireland which had a profound effect connected him. After finishing schoolhouse successful Mount Maunganui, he had a stint playing astatine Ards Rugby Club and came location pinch a heightened consciousness of nan request to widen his world studies. 

Reflecting connected that time, he said: ‘It helped maine mature. I was a spot sheltered. It helped maine to turn up successful nan realities of life and nan opportunities that were retired there.

‘I was constricted successful my thoughts. The No 1 point I learned from playing successful Ards was that I had to get an education. A batch of nan guys went to Queen’s University. I would beryllium successful nan backmost of nan speech theatre and listen. They were going disconnected to Amsterdam aliases London – to finance and nan markets. Education gave them those opportunities and I hadn’t had that.’

Armed pinch this caller outlook, Robertson signed pinch nan Crusaders, connected nan information they would money his grade astatine Lincoln University successful Christchurch. That became a template for truthful galore All Blacks who followed him. ‘I was a spot of a pioneer successful that way,’ he said.

New Zealand mislaid to South Africa by a azygous constituent successful past year's Rugby World Cup final

New Zealand are now looking to kickstart a caller era nether Robertson against England

One of those who gained a grade astatine Lincoln was Richie McCaw and nan iconic, double World Cup-winning New Zealand skipper was invited into nan All Blacks campy to speak to nan existent squad astir nan challenges ahead. They are taking England seriously, arsenic a squad tin of spoiling nan new-era motorboat party.

‘They person precocious their crippled pinch shot successful hand,’ said Robertson. ‘They still play their pressurising footie and still emotion competing successful nan air, but erstwhile they onslaught disconnected it, they are a spot braver now. There’s a spot of separator of nan chartless astir them. Steve has had his hands connected them for a twelvemonth and he’s a really accomplished, meticulous coach. You tin spot really they are evolving.’

Over caller years, erstwhile nan Crusaders won Super Rugby titles, Robertson would observe pinch an impromptu objection of breakdancing, surrounded by his players. But it will return much than a one-off Test triumph to spot him unveil his body-popping moves successful his caller job. 

‘Let’s make it successful Aussie successful 4 years,’ he said, successful reference to nan adjacent World Cup. That is nan goal. That is nan sky-high expectation. Nothing other will do.

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