Super Rugby Pacific: All Blacks coaching race no distraction to Scott Robertson despite Crusaders' slow start to 2023

The ongoing All Blacks coaching saga is no distraction for Crusaders coach Scott Robertson despite his side's slow start to 2023.

Incumbent Ian Foster's move not to seek re-appointment for the job in 2024, and assistant Joe Schmidt's not putting himself forward, has left an apparent two-horse race for the role of All Blacks head coach.

With six titles in six years as Crusaders coach, Robertson stands head and shoulders above any other New Zealand-based candidate - but faces stiff competition from Japan boss Jamie Joseph.

Scott Robertson.
Scott Robertson. Photo credit: Photosport

Missing a host of key players, Robertson's defending champion Crusaders sit eighth on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder, with only one victory after the first three rounds. 

A first-up loss to the table-topping Chiefs was followed by a convincing win over the Highlanders, only for the reigning champions to be humbled in a shock loss to Fijian Drua last weekend.

Up next are the Blues in arguably Super Rugby's greatest Kiwi rivalry.

While the Crusaders are almost certain to contend for the Super Rugby title come the end of the season, it's conceivable any home advantage could be squandered if the six-time champions can't secure a top four finish.

Victory over the Blues would greatly boost those prospects, seeing the Crusaders climb the table at the expense of a fellow title hopeful. 

Robertson's Crusaders travel north to Auckland to face longtime friend and former teammate Leon MacDonald's side on Saturday night, as the All Blacks contender assures there are no distractions on his part away from this Super Rugby campaign. 

"I'm really experienced, I've been around for a long time, understand the game, have been there and done it before," said Robertson.

"I've got a job here to do, and that's my main focus. Whatever happens on the side, I'll front up for that as well."

However, with speculation likely to persist until the next All Blacks coach is appointed, Robertson is deflecting any questions over the timeline of selection back to New Zealand Rugby.

At the start of March, NZ Rugby (NZR) chair Dame Patsy Reddy said that the process will be concluded within four to six weeks.

But for now, Robertson is staying coy on any developments around the All Blacks' coaching appointment process. 

"All those questions go back to NZR, about timing and process," said Robertson. "You can ask me the question, but it's really aligned and aimed at them.

"Anything around the NZR stuff, it's best that I say nothing.

"Do I still want the job? Yeah, nothing's changed on my behalf.

"But anything to do with the process, anything to do with announcements or other people's decisions is for NZR to answer."