Hart-felt plea: Let Foster get on with it
Former All Blacks coach believes incumbent is not getting a fair go and that his side will step up tonight
Former All Blacks coach John Hart says the constant pressure being applied to Ian Foster is detrimental to the national side and has called on New Zealanders to rally behind him as he looks to guide a team that Hart believes has a concerning weakness.
Speaking to D’Arcy Waldegrave on Newstalk ZB, Hart said some media had been making life unnecessarily hard for Foster and that discussions about his capability versus that of rival Scott Robertson should be shelved until the end of the international season.
“I dislike what I see and hear, particularly from some sections of the media, who I think are putting undue pressure on the coach.
“The spectre of Scott Robertson in the background isn’t helping. For media, any time there is anything but 100 per cent performance, there’s a questioning of the coach, which is not helping the coach or team.
“The most important thing now is that we get behind Foster, and at the end of the year, or whenever it might be, then make the judgement call on whether he goes forward or not.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a good coach and he should just be left to get on with it.”
Robertson re-signed with New Zealand Rugby last week until the end of 2024, and while he will continue as head coach of the Crusaders, he is available to take over as All Blacks coach at any stage before then.
“If I don’t get the job, there is an exit after 2023, but if I want to stay around, I can,” Robertson said of one particularly accommodating clause in his new contract.
Hart believes Foster has more pressing challenges than Robertson, particularly when it comes to adapting the All Blacks’ game plan.
That challenge was exposed last weekend against Fiji when the side struggled to gain parity at the breakdown.
“The Fijians surprised everyone. They came out with a physicality that possibly wasn’t expected and they possibly won the breakdown, and all of a sudden, people are looking at the All Blacks and questioning,” Hart said.
“I think it is a concern . . . it’s a concern only from the fact that I don’t
think we’re a side that naturally is just going to belt teams physically and I think that means we’ve got to have more to our game.”
However, Hart believes the side has what it takes to overcome what now looks like a weakness.
“I think we do have that and that’s why I was thrilled with some of the skills . . . particularly in the passing in the backs, in both games.
“I like what I saw, and for the All Blacks to win, I don’t think we can rely on just being physically better than all teams. We might do that maybe against Australia, not necessarily against some of the other northern teams or South Africa.
“So getting the balance of our game right is our challenge, in terms of being able to apply the pressure up front and use the skills of the loose forwards and the backs. I don’t think it’s a matter of just belting teams up physically any more.”
Hart is expecting to see signs of a focused and flexible All Blacks side in tonight’s second test against Fiji, which he believes the home side will dominate.
“The All Blacks, in the next test, will step up to another level.”