Andrew Gourdie: Where's the respect for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen?

OPINION: The All Blacks' season is over, and now we wait. 

Steve Hansen has confirmed he'll head home to make a decision on his future, with an announcement expected before Christmas.

And as we sit by while we he decides what he wants to do, we could all do well to just shut up and allow him to decide what is best for him and the team.

Right now, Steve Hansen deserves our respect. There is not a single one of us who are in a position to tell him that it's time to move on. You might be tired of Hansen's gruff manner, or simply want to see someone else given a crack. Sorry, not good enough.

The fact is that the All Blacks are in the business of winning, and despite a couple of blips in 2018 that are fresh in the memory as the year winds down, Steve Hansen's record speaks for itself. He is a winner. He has helped deliver unprecedented success for All Blacks in recent years, and has helped take not only the team, but New Zealand Rugby, to new levels. From the point of view of fans and critics, there really is no justifiable reason to demand a change.

There are only a couple of questions he'll be mulling over as he returns home: does he have the energy and drive to continue? Does the team want him to continue?

Andrew Gourdie: Where's the respect for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen?

For starters, Steve Hansen is 59 years old. Graham Henry's still helping Auckland at the age of 72, and other leading coaches around the world have continued into their 70s, so age is not an issue here. Hansen's been involved with the team since 2004 - that's 15 years by the time next year's Rugby World Cup rolls around. Does he want a new challenge? Well considering when he signed his last contract he said, "As a coach, there is no better job in rugby than coaching your own national team, particularly one that is as successful as this All Blacks team has been," it's difficult to imagine that view has changed.

And as the figurehead of a team that epitomises elite high performance, you can bet the view of the senior players will be a factor in whatever Hansen decides to do. The All Blacks environment is one which prioritises honesty and accountability. If tough conversations need to be had, they'll be had, and that goes both ways. Just as the coaches demand a lot of the players, the players need confidence that the coaching staff are at the cutting edge, leading the way on the international stage. Setting tactical trends, not following. Few could argue that hasn't been the case with the All Blacks under Hansen's watch.

And even if the players were questioning whether Hansen is the right man for the job going forward, the next question is: then who? Which coach in world rugby can you categorically say is a better option than Steve Hansen?

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Photo credit: Reuters

Joe Schmidt led Ireland to an impressive victory over Hansen's All Blacks - does that categorically make him a better coach? Does that mean he can take the All Blacks to a new level?

Ian Foster is Hansen's right-hand man: a reliable and loyal assistant who's grown immensely during his time with the All Blacks. A leading contender if Hansen steps aside, but a better option? It's an impossible case to argue.

Scott Robertson has been successful with the Crusaders - does that mean he's ready to step up to the biggest job in the world? Does he possess the coaching nous at such an early stage of his career to push the team forward?

On the balance of recent results, performance and development, it is virtually impossible for you, me, the players or New Zealand Rugby to form the view that there is another candidate available that can and will do a better job of coaching the All Blacks than Steve Hansen.

If he decides to step down for whatever reason, that's his prerogative. But If he wants to continue, and has the support of those who really matter, then that's good enough for me.   

Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports presenter and RadioLIVE Sunday Sport host. 

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