New Zealand coach Ian Foster must come home from South Africa with at least one win to save his job with two losses enough to see Scott Robertson in place when the All Blacks play Argentina later this month.
That’s the inside scoop from New Zealand rugby writer Paul Cully, who outlined the precarious and “extraordinary” nature of Foster’s predicament on Thursday.
While New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson has failed to guarantee Foster’s position beyond the two matches in against the Springboks over the next two weekends, Cully said he “understands that NZ Rugby has indicated to the head coach that one win, at least, is required to secure his employment.
“Even that might not be enough to see him through to the Rugby World Cup, although the remaining four Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina and Australia – three of which are in New Zealand – would give Foster the chance to put some more capital in the bank.
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“Conversely, if Foster fails in South Africa, a swift removal would give the incoming All Blacks coach two weeks to get his feet under the desk before the Test against the Pumas on August 27.”
Cully went as far as to suggest that, with the Pumas Test scheduled for Christchurch, it could be “Scott Robertson’s first Test in charge could be in front of an adoring home crowd.”
Robertson raised some hackles with comments last week that he would happily coach a nation other than the All Blacks if he continued to miss out on the job he was passed over for in 2019.
“If there is another country – I wouldn’t go to a club now – I really want to go to Rugby World Cup. I genuinely want to go to a couple. It’s one job [All Blacks coach] and when someone doesn’t give it to you, you have to think differently about what opportunities are out there,” he said.
Robertson is under contract to NZR and is considered the only candidate should Foster meet a rapid demise.
South Africa’s coach Jacques Nienaber was reluctant to comment on Foster’s situation but said all coaches were two bad games from losing their jobs.
“If I comment on what is happening in their camp and how he [Foster] feels, then that will be speculation,” Nienaber said.
“I don’t know what their deal is or how things operate between him and the CEO.
“As coaches and players, we know that when you represent your county there is always going to be pressure.
“Especially countries that have a rich rugby tradition like South Africa and New Zealand. There’s always going to be pressure.
“If you are a coach or a player you are two poor games from being dropped, and you are two poor games away from being fired. That is the reality and one lives with that.”
Nienaber said both teams would be desperate to win a battle between long time rivals.
“We’ve got no control, and we can’t expand energy on thinking about how they are feeling, how desperate they’d be and what would they change,” Nienaber said.
“We’ve got no control over that, so the moment you think about those things, you’re wasting that energy.
“We can only control what we can control. We must make sure that they’re not more desperate than us on the day.
“That we can control, but we can’t control how they tackle the game, what they want to do with our maul, and our style of play.
“We need to stay in that reality. They’ll be desperate, and they’ll always be desperate. When two great rugby sides meet, there’s always desperation.”
For the first time in 13 years, and just the fourth time in the history of New Zealand sports betting, the All Blacks are underdogs going into a Test match.
The All Blacks are paying $2.00 in the head-to-head market for the Rugby Championship opener in Mbombela, with the Springboks at $1.87 on NZ TAB.
Rugby – The Roar