Successful Crusaders coach impresses sponsors but also strikes a chord with the non-rugby-playing public.

Scott Robertson - Crusaders coach, surfer, skateboarder, breakdancer - is in the reception area of his franchise's new headquarters in suburban Christchurch.

Sheltering from the steady rain caused by the tail-end of Cyclone Gita earlier this week, a group of sponsors gather near the front desk which has a good view of a cabinet containing the Super Rugby trophy.

Outside on the increasingly wet pitch, the Crusaders backs are running against each other. The forwards, in a break from tradition, are in a meeting indoors.

Robertson, wearing rugby boots on the tiled floor, shakes hands and talks briefly with every sponsor before making his way outside. Soon after, a senior representative of a major sponsor tells the Weekend Herald about his impressions of the 43-year-old coach who took the Crusaders to a title in his first year in charge.


"He's a powderkeg of enthusiasm," he said. "Players want to smash windows and crawl on broken glass for him because he has honesty and integrity."

Robertson also strikes a chord with the non-rugby-playing public. The sponsor added: "We had him in to talk about leadership. We have many speakers in, but never before have those listening to him wanted a copy of the speaker's notes afterwards."

After training, Robertson swaps his boots for shoes, grabs some leftover food from the sponsors' function - filled roll, fruit, two cream scones - gives a fist bump to the half dozen staff in the office, and sits down to talk about the challenges ahead.

There is a feeling at the Crusaders that they have a slightly stronger roster this season, but that they will present a bigger target to the opposition, starting tonight night with the Chiefs in Christchurch.

Last year they lost only one match - to the Hurricanes in Wellington - and made history when winning the title in South Africa, the first away team to do so, when beating the Lions in Johannesburg in the final.

Asked if he was surprised by how his players responded to him, a new coach at this level, last year, Robertson pauses and says: "Gee, good question. Look, I wanted to create an environment that the players could buy into and want to succeed in. It had been a long time since we had won our last title [2008], and I asked them if they wanted to do something special, if they wanted to do almost anything to succeed. And they did that."

That is probably it in a nutshell. The Crusaders have always had a lot of All Blacks in their squad, but not, in recent times, the performances.

Last year Robertson got that and he believes he is a better coach now. He helped Robbie Deans coach the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Twickenham last year and says his professional development has been significant.

But some things never change, and that's what makes him unique and able to find such a quick connection with people. "I'm just a big kid, really," he says. "I'm still the surfer who came down here from Mt Maunganui all those years ago."

In summer, Robertson surfs or swims at the beach near his Sumner home most mornings before getting in his car and driving to work at 7 o'clock. A recent photo shoot had him skateboarding, bare-footed, to the beach with a paddleboard under an arm and paddle in another, a smile on his face.

It was just another morning in the life of Scott Robertson, former All Blacks loose forward, and a man cut from a different cloth.

He describes his recent break as a "summer of euphoria" due to the fine and hot weather in the south, but there is an element of celebration there too from what he and his team achieved over a period of seven months in 2017.

There is little doubt that the Crusaders board took a gamble on Robertson in the post-Todd Blackadder era. In his job interview, Robertson said he would win the title in his first year and he truly believed that he could. His breakdancing celebrations on the Ellis Park pitch after the final, a tradition begun during his time with Canterbury, made headlines around the world. For Robertson, it was just a case of being himself. "I know I'm made differently," he says. "But I think that's okay. I'm also true to myself and that's important."

"He's a great connector of people and a unique character but more importantly he's a bloody good rugby coach," chief executive Hamish Riach says. "We had high hopes obviously when he was appointed and they came to fruition last year."

The challenges will come in 2018, Robertson knows that.

But he will also always back his players, and they, it appears, will always back him.

• Patrick McKendry travelled to Christchurch to visit the Crusaders headquarters at Rugby Park with assistance from the franchise's new major sponsor Fiji Airways.