New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, left, seen with selector Grant Fox, centre and his assistant Ian Foster following the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match at Tokyo Stadium. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker

CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s four-year reign as world champions will have as much to do with how the Springboks keep their house in order as it does with who is appointed All Black coach.

The Kiwis always promoted the virtues of Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee as Bok coaches. Why? Because the Boks only fashioned one dramatic last-minute victory against the All Blacks during the duo’s respective tenures.

Rassie Erasmus had the All Blacks on high alert the moment he was appointed and in the last two seasons he won once in New Zealand, drew in New Zealand, lost in South Africa and lost at the World Cup in the opening match. The great rivalry between the two nations was restored in the last two seasons.

The two countries will meet for a 100th time in 2020 and if Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is the man in charge, then South Africa be nervous. Not so current assistant coach Ian Foster.

The All Blacks, in appointing Steve Hansen for two four-year spells following Graham Henry’s departure, put an emphasis on continuity from within the ranks. Henry won the 2011 World Cup with Hansen as his deputy, with Hansen going on to win the 2015 World Cup as head coach and end third at the 2019 tournament. Many, myself included, felt Hansen’s time in charge was two years too long.

Scott Robertson is the only coach to have won three successive Super Rugby titles. Photo: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix
Scott Robertson is the only coach to have won three successive Super Rugby titles. Photo: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

Robertson is New Zealand’s Erasmus. Both are young, innovative and successful coaches. Both played loose forward for their country and both were popular players and coaches. Both are a breath of fresh air and agents of change. Both have made immediate coaching impacts wherever they have taken charge.

Robertson, a title-winning Crusader as a player, won the National Provincial Championship with Canterbury at his first attempt. Before that he stopped a losing sequence of five years to guide the New Zealand Under-20s to the world title. He has coached the Crusaders for three seasons and became the first ever coach to win three successive titles in Super Rugby. He is also just 45-years-old.

Talk coming out of New Zealand is that Robertson won’t get the job because the rugby bosses will again opt for continuity. But those who question this do so on the basis of who represents the continuity.

Foster is said to have included former Sharks and current Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree as his forwards assistant. Plumtree, who also coached Ireland’s forwards for a year, adds value to any coaching set-up, but the 54-year-old Foster is a man with the most ordinary of records as a head coach. Foster, in a combined 10 seasons with Waikato in the NPC and the Chiefs in Super Rugby won no titles and had a 53 percent win ratio from 127 matches.

Ian Foster during a New Zealand All Blacks press conference. Photo: Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Ian Foster during a New Zealand All Blacks press conference. Photo: Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Robertson, by contrast, has won 84 percent of his 102 matches in charge of Canterbury (2013-2016) and the Crusaders (2017-2019). Most significantly, he won six titles from a possible seven.

I know which name I want read out, and it isn’t Robertson’s. I reckon I wouldn’t be alone among SA rugby supporters.

@mark_keohane