Two games of rugby bookend the domestic career of a monumental figure in New Zealand rugby history.
Super 12 1996, Round 4 versus Western Province (Stormers) at Lancaster Park in Christchurch. Flanker Scott Robertson debuts for the Canterbury Crusaders in a 16-16 draw.
Super Rugby Pacific 2023, the Grand Final versus Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton. Razor wins a seventh straight title as Crusaders Head Coach, adding to the four he won as a player. It’d be the team’s 14th title.
Razor, now 48, had his last week at Rugby Park this week – departing to take over as All Blacks Head Coach from 1 November 2023.
A fresh-faced 21-year-old Robertson moved from Bay of Plenty in 1996: new jersey, new team, new competition. Season one didn’t exactly go to plan, but the Crusaders traded their ’96 wooden spoon for a ’97 middle-table finish, and then it all came right.
From ’97-’99, led by Head Coach Wayne Smith, the team created a culture and an attitude that resulted in back-to-back title wins. Robbie Deans came in as Head Coach in 2000 and made it three on the trot. A legacy of success began.
Razor – nicknamed for fierce tackling – was part of four Super Rugby title winning teams and made 23 All Blacks appearances. He debuted against Australia exactly 25 years ago – 1 August at Lancaster Park alongside the likes of Jonah Lomu, Jeff Wilson, Andrew Mehrtens and Christian Cullen.
By the time Razor left the Crusaders in 2003, they’d begun a legacy of success, not built on creating great rugby players, but creating great men who were good at rugby.
Razor completed stints in France and Japan, including more than 50 appearances for French club Perpignan, before returning to Christchurch. He coached his beloved Sumner Rugby Club in 2007, taking them into the first grade, and began to build the foundation of his coaching prowess.
He was appointed as Canterbury Assistant Coach in 2008, working under incumbent Crusaders Head Coach Rob Penney, before being named Canterbury Head Coach in 2013. He won titles with Canterbury and led the NZ U20 team to glory at the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy.
Then came the big one – he was named to succeed Todd Blackadder as Crusaders Head Coach for the ’17 season.
The plaudits came quickly. A debut Super Rugby title vs the Lions in Johannesburg, only the second rookie coach to win in their first season – and the Crusaders first title in nearly 10 years. Another final win against the Lions in 2018. When the team won their third consecutive title in 2019 against the Jaguares in Christchurch, the records began to fall.
Razor was the first ever rookie coach in Super Rugby to win three successive titles, and it was only the second time a team had done it. The first time? The Crusaders, between 1998-2000.
He famously ran culture and themed campaigns based on kings and that first title was the foundation of the dynasty. It all started there.
Razor and his Crusaders won seven consecutive Super Rugby titles during his time, the latest in Hamilton on 24 June 2023 against a red-hot Chiefs side. He finished his career the most successful Super Rugby coach ever, having won 99 of his 118 games – ahead of mentors Robbie Deans, who won 89 out of 120 games, and Todd Blackadder, who won 85 out of 133 games.
He leaves the gig with a win rate of 83.9%. To put this in perspective, famous NBA coach Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers) had a win rate of 70%, and Premier League football coach Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) had a win rate of 65%. To their credit, Sir Steve Hansen had a win rate of 87% with the All Blacks, while Sir Graham Henry enjoyed a win rate of 85%.
And so ends the greatest Super Rugby coaching tenures in history, and one of the greatest sporting dynasties in the world. Rugby Park will never be quite the same.
Razor proudly joins the watchtower, standing alongside those who have served the jersey before. The story of the Crusaders changes, and the legend continues.
Key Razor stats
As a Crusader player:
- Debut: 22 March 1996 v Western Province (Stormers), Christchurch. (Score: 16-16)
- Played: 86
- Won: 57
- Lost: 26
- Drew: 3
- Tries: 16
- Win rate: 66.28%
As Crusaders Head Coach:
- Debut: 25 February 2017 v Brumbies, Canberra. (Score: 17-13)
- Played: 118
- Won: 99
- Lost: 17
- Drew: 2
- Win rate: 83.90%