The Blame Game

Jim Kayes
Written by
Jim Kayes

Author short introduction. Three to five lines of brief description.

Ian Foster’s days as head coach are surely numbered but should he carry the blame alone?  NZRW Editor Jim Kayes looks at where the responsibility lies for the All Blacks slump.

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster before the Steinlager Series match between New Zealand and Ireland at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster before the Steinlager Series match between New Zealand and Ireland at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

John Hart was spat on.  His horse had beer cans thrown at it.

Wayne Smith once had a human turd left in his letter box with a note suggesting it reflected his coaching ability.

And Ian Foster was abused getting off the team bus after the second test loss to Ireland in Dunedin.

Blaming the coach is a national sport and Foster would be advised to stay away from social media as he is being eviscerated there after the historic series defeat to Ireland.

It’s left his coaching tenure hanging by a thread - and rightly so - but his fellow coaches should share the blame along with the bulk of the senior players.

It’s not Foster who drops passes, misses tackles, gives away penalties and gets yellow or red carded.  Players do that.

And many of his bloated coaching team are simply not up to it.

But it is Foster who is ultimately responsible for the All Blacks successes and failures and the New Zealand public has had enough of his mediocrity.

“Coaching the All Blacks is a very special opportunity but it does come with a lot of pressure,” Hart, who coached the All Blacks to 36 wins in 47 tests (including the 1991 World Cup), says.

Those wins included an historic series triumph in South Africa in 1996 and they were unbeaten in 1997, a draw with England in the final test the only blemish on a remarkable record.

They kicked off 1998 strongly with two big wins against England, but then in the Tri-Nations, success disappeared.  Sean Fitzptrick and Zinzan Brooke had retired, the great Michael Jones was on his way out and Frank Bunce was going the same way.

“We didn’t have the depth or the leadership when we lost those guys. It was tough.  It was particularly tough because we lost a few tests by just a few points and if we’d had the video referee like there is today, we might not have lost them.”

Hart faced a New Zealand Rugby review after the Tri-Nations and though he survived, he admits it had been a gruelling year.

“But it goes with the job and it was worse in 1999 after the World Cup.”

The All Blacks lost in the semifinal to France and then the playoff for third to South Africa, finishing fourth - their worst result at a World Cup (at that stage).

When he returned to New Zealand, Hart travelled to Christchurch to watch his horse Holmes DG race at Addington.

He was followed into the toilets by a man who swore at him and spat in his face.  “And the horse had cans thrown at him,” Hart says.  “He’d done nothing wrong. The poor horse didn’t know we’d lost the World Cup.”

Foster hasn’t been spat at, but he has been abused and the often fraught relationship between the All Blacks and the media is in disarray.  There’s also a significant disconnect between the team and HQ.

Continue this story in our Aug/Sep  issue.

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Jim Kayes
Written by
Jim Kayes

Editor of NZRW magazine, Producer of the Breakdown and all round good guy

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