The man, the myths, the coach Home front

Steve Hansen will soon an­nounce his fu­ture plans with the All Blacks. Does he want to stay on as head coach af­ter the 2019 World Cup, or will he re­tire? We out­line both his achieve­ments and how he rolls when spend­ing time in­side and out­side the rugby tent

Nelson Mail - - Sport - Richard Knowler [email protected]

Coach­ing record

Since Hansen was ap­pointed head coach in 2012 the All Blacks have won just un­der 90 per cent of their tests.

There can be no dis­put­ing the fact that he has the abil­ity to squeeze the best of this team. Here’s the All Blacks’ record un­der Hansen: 96 tests played, 86 won, seven lost, and three drawn.

There’s a good rea­son why many New Zealan­ders re­mem­ber the dud re­sults more than the wins. They are rare blips in a record lit­tered with Ws, and the odd D.

The losses dur­ing Hansen’s ten­ure have been against Ire­land (twice), Aus­tralia (twice), South Africa (twice) and the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions. The draws were against the Aussies (twice) and the Lions.

Early days

Hansen was raised on his par­ents dairy farm in Mos­giel, near Dunedin. The fam­ily moved to Christchurch when he was 15, where he at­tended Christchurch Boys’ High School and was good enough to rep­re­sent the first XV.

It was dur­ing an in­ter­school game in Christchurch that he crossed paths with a teenager who was, like Hansen, to go on and build him­self a big rep­u­ta­tion as a rugby coach. Rob­bie Deans was a mem­ber of the Christ’s Col­lege first XV, a ma­jor ri­val of CBHS in the Gar­den City.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive hon­ours

A cen­tre, Hansen briefly played for Can­ter­bury but was used more by the Can­ter­bury B team. He also went to France, where he en­joyed a brief stint with a club, be­fore re­turn­ing to New Zealand.

Work­ing life

Hansen hasn’t been afraid to say he didn’t achieve great things as an aca­demic at school. He says he wished he had been more dili­gent in the class­room, but has also noted he gath­ered valu­able life skills work­ing in the freez­ing works and, later, as a po­lice­man.

Af­ter eight years as a cop, Hansen found work with the Can­ter­bury Rugby Foot­ball Union in the mid-1990s. It was then that his pro­fes­sional coach­ing ca­reer be­gan to take off.

Not the boss of a Su­per team

Al­though he guided Can­ter­bury to a cou­ple of na­tional pro­vin­cial ti­tles, Hansen has never been the head coach of a Su­per Rugby side. Hansen as­sisted Wayne Smith and, later, Deans at the Cru­saders be­tween 1999 and 2001.

When the re­la­tion­ship be­tween head coach Deans and as­sis­tant Hansen be­came less than har­mo­nious the lat­ter left New Zealand af­ter Gra­ham Henry, then the coach of Wales, in­vited him to move north. When Henry sud­denly departed, Hansen took over the top job in 2002 be­fore re­turn­ing to work as Henry’s as­sis­tant with the All Blacks in 2004.

When Deans left for Aus­tralia af­ter the 2008 sea­son Hansen tried to con­vince the NZ Rugby board he could coach the Cru­saders, and also stay with the All Blacks. They de­clined his of­fer.

The Cru­saders board ap­pointed Todd Black­ad­der as Deans’ suc­ces­sor.

Nick­name

Hansen is known as ‘Shag’ to his mates. Ac­cord­ing to those who have played and worked along­side him in the past, he was tagged with this nick­name be­cause he had the habit of call­ing oth­ers ‘Shag’ and they de­cided to turn it back on him.

When Hansen played for the Marist club in Christchurch he was some­times re­ferred to as ‘Ox’. He mar­ried Tash Mar­shall in 2014. Two pre­vi­ous mar­riages did not work out. Be­fore ty­ing the knot with Mar­shall Hansen told Richie McCaw, the All Blacks cap­tain at the time, that he didn’t want to get off­side by send­ing in­vites to some play­ers but not oth­ers. So ‘Ricko’, as McCaw was known to his mates, wasn’t asked to at­tend the nup­tials.

Horses

A keen in­vestor in race­horses, Hansen dreamed of be­ing a jockey as a young­ster. The more he kept grow­ing, the less likely it was to be.

He owns thor­ough­breds that race on both sides of the Tas­man, and is a part-owner of Na­ture Strip. This speed ma­chine is one of the quick­est gal­lop­ers in the world over 1000m, and in the sta­ble of high-pro­file trainer Darren Weir.

Wide boy

Dur­ing the eight years work­ing as Henry’s as­sis­tant, Hansen didn’t have much time for the me­dia.

When Hansen prod­ded the fourth es­tate, he dis­cov­ered some of them had a back­bone and de­cided they could push back even harder.

So Hansen con­sulted for­mer journo turned PR ad­viser Ian Fraser, and tried to win this bat­tle an­other way. By the time he had been ap­pointed head coach in 2012 Hansen had mor­phed into a much slicker oper­a­tor in front of the mi­cro­phones and cam­eras. He even seems to en­joy it.

Vent­ing

If he is feel­ing frus­trated, or feels the need to blow off steam, Hansen says he will ask one of his trusted col­leagues from the All Blacks’ man­age­ment team to spare a friendly ear.

This, in his own words, is how he goes about it: ‘‘You go into it say­ing ‘I need to vent for five min­utes and don’t need you to find me a so­lu­tion and I don’t want a so­lu­tion – I just want a vent’.

‘‘I think that is healthy. I have had plenty of peo­ple come to me and say the same thing.’’

Tough de­ci­sions

The un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous dump­ing of half­back Andy El­lis by Hansen when he re­placed Henry as All Blacks head coach in 2012 wasn’t pop­u­lar in his home prov­ince of Can­ter­bury.

El­lis, who earned 26 test caps be­tween 2006 and 2011, only played two more tests un­der Hansen be­fore go­ing over­seas af­ter the 2016 Su­per Rugby sea­son.

All Blacks cen­tre Con­rad Smith was much more for­tu­nate, be­ing re­tained by Hansen dur­ing his first four years in charge.

How­ever. Smith might have taken a while to get over Hansen’s de­ci­sion to re­place him with Sonny Bill Wil­liams dur­ing the half­time break of the World Cup fi­nal against Aus­tralia in Twick­en­ham in 2015. It was well doc­u­mented that it was to be Smith’s fi­nal game for his coun­try.

Yet it didn’t save Smith. He was un­ex­pect­edly yanked, and his days in black were over.

Quotes and quips

You can usu­ally trust Hansen to en­ter­tain when he’s up for it dur­ing me­dia ses­sions. They can be good value. Which makes you won­der why he couldn’t have been like this ear­lier in his coach­ing ca­reer, when he prowled around like a sleep­less door­man with a hang­over.

But, make no mis­take, if Hansen doesn’t agree with some­thing that has been writ­ten, or said, he can un­leash colour­ful bursts that cause your eardrums to hum for sev­eral hours af­ter the con­flict.

If he’s go­ing to town over the phone, here’s some friendly ad­vice for the re­cip­i­ent: Put the re­ceiver down on the bench top, pop the crum­pets in the toaster and turn the dial to its high­est point. When the morsels are burnt to a crisp, re­move and add your favourite top­ping. By now the ver­bal storm might be near­ing its end.

En­joy.

It’s all in the de­liv­ery

Hansen can de­liver en­ter­tain­ing sound bites. He is also pre­pared to have a dig – whether it be at an op­po­si­tion coach, a critic or even the World Rugby or­gan­i­sa­tion – if he feels his team, play­ers, or him­self have been slighted or copped a rough deal. There is some­thing re­fresh­ing about that. The game needs per­son­al­i­ties.

Here’s a cou­ple of quotes from the Hansen era. They are not nec­es­sar­ily the pick of the bunch, but they pro­vide a small in­sight.

Be­fore the All Blacks played France in the World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal in Cardiff in 2015, Hansen re­minded Les Bleus that he hadn’t for­got­ten the in­ci­dent in­volv­ing the sink­ing of the the Rain­bow War­rior by French for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in 1985.

‘‘There has been a great re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries for a long, long time and, apart from the Rain­bow War­rior, we’ve prob­a­bly been on the same page most of the time.’’

Af­ter that match, which the All Blacks won 62-13 in Cardiff, Hansen was asked at a me­dia con­fer­ence if he had any­thing else up his sleeve: ‘‘Just my arm,’’ he replied.

It was one of those you-have-tobe-there mo­ments. Even Hansen seemed sur­prised by the re­ac­tion. One TV type al­most top­pled off his stool with laugh­ter. It ac­tu­ally wasn’t that funny. But you get the pic­ture.

Stay­ing put

If he de­cides to end his coach­ing ten­ure af­ter the World Cup, don’t ex­pect Hansen to search for work with an­other in­ter­na­tional team. Dur­ing the All Blacks’ tour of the north­ern hemi­sphere, he went on the record to say it wasn’t in his short-term plans.

‘‘I would be bet­ter off stay­ing where I am; it doesn’t mat­ter what team you coach the time com­mit­ments and pres­sures are pretty sim­i­lar. I couldn’t see any point in do­ing that.’’

With wife Tash Mar­shall.

With for­mer All Blacks head coach Gra­ham Henry.

GETTY IM­AGES/STUFF

With cur­rent All Blacks as­sis­tant coach Ian Foster.

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