Steve Hansen, who describes himself as a graduate of the university of life, in his case the freezing works and the police force, has a huge ability to read people, and then get the best out of them.
He'll have called on all that emotional intelligence this week, as he prepares a comparatively untried All Black team for the side's opening game with a big, bruising, brutal, South African side.
"Working," he's said, "gives you experience and exposure to other things, which makes you a better person. It's not all academics. Academics can sometimes be black and white, and life isn't always black or white. It's got a little bit of grey in it."
His management skills? "He asks questions, and listens to the answers," says an All Black insider. "It's how he gets players to take on leadership. After a discussion, the player feels he was the one who had the idea."
He can, say former charges who became coaches such as Todd Blackadder, distil ideas down and express them in ways players can easily grasp.
As one of his All Black players, on the basis of complete anonymity, once told me, "Steve's a very bright man, and he never forgets that no matter how much they're paid, even the All Blacks are still hairy arsed rugby players. He can communicate in ways they understand."
He's the 16th All Black coach I've known, from the time I first met Fred Allen in 1966. Looking back I don't believe any of them grew in the job more than Hansen has.
As we've seen with the selection dice that have now been rolled on wings Sevu Reece and George Bridge, the Beauden Barrett/Richie Mo'unga moves, and the loose forward combination, Hansen has a confidence that runs bone deep.
He's taken chances before, with Nehe Milner-Skudder ("you've picked it right", he told a journalist in London in 2015 who asked whether Milner-Skudder was too minute to play at test level, "he's not a big man"), and in 2017 with Rieko Ioane in the Lions series. At this World Cup he's taken more risks than usual, but they're calculated, and if there's one person who won't allow himself to be a victim of stress, it's Hansen.
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Drawing on memories from his police career, Hansen has said: "Real pressure is when you've got to spend half an hour giving someone CPR and trying to save their life, and then when that doesn't work, telling their children or their father or mother: 'Sorry, we haven't been able to save them'. What we're doing is playing a game of rugby."
Hansen used to be underestimated by many journalists, including myself. Meet a solidly built, tough-looking cop nicknamed Shag, as I did in 1995 in Christchurch when he was the assistant coach at the High School Old Boys' club, and it's easy to mistake a laconic nature for a lack of intent.
Hansen himself has suggested he actually became a very different man from when he started coaching. "I think back to High School Old Boys' and I cringe at some of the stuff. But at that time that's all I knew. I've been lucky enough to be exposed to some great opportunities to grow. It's been good."
His confidence has allowed him to be the greatest revolutionary in All Black coaching history. Fred Allen was determined to change the smothering, risk-free All Black style of the early 1960s, and he did. Jack Gleeson was prepared to take, for example, the massive punt of running the ball like a festival game to counter a physically stronger French team in Paris in 1977. It worked. Ten years later Brian Lochore had enough self belief to happily harness two coaches in Alex Wyllie and John Hart, who had more success as provincial coaches than he had, and fully utilise the skills they brought to the table to win the 1987 World Cup. Our next Cup-winning coach, Graham Henry, embraced the full use of experts in their fields, from scrum coach Mike Cron, to motivational and psychological experts like Gilbert Enoka and Keri Evans.
What's groundbreaking about Hansen is the amount of trust he places in the people around him, basically sharing his power.
He's unafraid to be open. Asked how he judges which players need a kick in the butt and which ones need a cuddle, he's answered, "you can't do a lot of damage cuddling someone".
All of which is a huge change from the more usual stance of an All Black coach as a rather forbidding, stern taskmaster, who there to be obeyed, never questioned.
On the other hand, the template for Hansen's style, he told journalist Liam Napier in 2016, came from his father, Des, who Steve said always challenged players to understand why, when and how they were doing things. "They're not big words but they're pretty important ones." Steve the player was coached by his father from Steve's second year in Christchurch club rugby for Marist.
Hansen told Napier: "Dad always had some words of wisdom in his messages for everyone if you were prepared to listen. I enjoyed a lot of those times. He basically taught me how to play the game and from that how to coach. We used to have lots of conversations.
"He loved people but just as importantly people loved him. He had a soft nature to him as well. He'd always be there to lend a helping hand to those that needed it."
Steve's feelings were echoed by a man who coached against Des, Jerry Rowberry from the Christchurch club, who said that in conversation Des "listened to every word you said, and didn't try to dominate".
Last year one of the senior All Blacks, Sam Cane, swore to me that in the All Blacks under Steve Hansen nobody is afraid to ask a question of the coaches. All opinions, Cane said, are "valued 100 per cent. I think that sort of culture and environment is the way society is trending in all aspects, whether it's business or in schools. They're empowering people, so they have a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership, and in return they get the best out of them. There's no doubt the All Blacks are leaders on that front.
"We say a form of leadership is to be vulnerable, and accept that you don't know everything. It doesn't matter where the right answer comes from, as long as we get there in the end."
As the tournament in Japan goes on, watch Hansen deal with the other contest, the battle for hearts and minds conducted off the field with the world's media.
Hansen as an assistant coach with the All Blacks initially tended to speak as if he was reading a police blotter, holding cards not so much close to, but glued to, his chest.
Does that matter? In a world where opinions of people are often formed by what we see on television, yes it does. Even the All Blacks can't afford to present as surly or obstructive. It might satisfy an urge to slap down a question a coach doesn't like, but when the sound bite is edited so all the viewers see at home is a coach looking grumpy, it's the coach who loses.
"I tried taking on the media a bit," Hansen has said. "But it was media first, daylight second, and then me." At the Heritage hotel in December, at a press conference to announce he was stepping down after the Cup in Japan, Hansen was asked how he had changed since he became head coach in 2012. Hansen smiled and said, "I think we all know I've got a little bit better with you people." New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew couldn't help himself and quipped, "low base". Hansen laughed: "Yeah, pretty poor start."
With encouragement from Tew, early in Hansen's tenure, he consulted with public relations guru Ian Fraser, and allowed his dry humour to emerge.
The results would be impressive. After the All Blacks had beaten the Wallabies 22-0 at Eden Park in August 2012, Jim Kayes, then at TV3, asked Hansen a very loaded question. How long did Hansen think Robbie Deans, then the Wallabies coach, would last as an All Black coach with the record Deans had with Australia?
Hansen's reaction was disarming and perfect. He smiled, and said: "Jesus Jimmy, why don't you give me a rope and let me put it round my neck?"
There was never any likelihood, given the charged nature of any question about his former coaching partner Deans, of Hansen giving his genuine opinion, but the potential sting of a thin-lipped "how dare you ask me that question" comment playing in prime time was perfectly side stepped.
While preparing this column I found a comment I made 16 years ago when Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Hansen had just been appointed as the All Black coaching team. "If keeping things in perspective is vital, Steve Hansen is exactly the sort of man you'd want on your side. I believe he will be a rock on the All Black coaching staff." As a journalist you constantly get predictions wrong. As a New Zealand rugby fan I'm grateful for the fact this was a rare occasion when I believe I got it right.
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