Wayne Smith vows he has the "passion" to continue coaching the All Blacks through to the 2003 rugby World Cup.
Smith broke his silence at a press conference in Christchurch yesterday to declare he was "the man for the job" and had applied for the position, which has been advertised by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Whether he will get the job is another matter.
Two formidable rivals, Wayne Shelford and John Mitchell, threw their hats into the ring yesterday. Both are former All Black No 8s with impressive coaching credentials.
Said Mitchell: "I want to be responsible and accountable for how the All Blacks perform.
"I want to give them a clear direction and, as coach, the buck would stop with me."
Shelford said: "Things need to be simplified. There is a bit of confusion there on the field and I think I could bring something extra to the job."
Smith faced the union's review committee last week and then decided he would not continue.
"I said to the panel, 'I'm unsure'. I said, 'At times, when I sit down and think of another two years I break into a cold sweat'."
The next day he rang union chief executive David Rutherford to say he had changed his mind, and if the position was advertised he would apply for it.
He also said he would not be available to the media until the coach was appointed. But he called a press conference yesterday.
"All of you here know about the passion I have for the jersey, what a proud All Black I was, and what a proud All Black coach I've been," he said.
"I want to continue to be the All Black coach."
Smith admitted he told the review panel last week that he was not sure he wanted the job for another two years, and it should be re-advertised.
His two-year contract, along with that of his assistant, Tony Gilbert, expires at the end of the year.
Smith said he could understand why the panel went away with the impression that he would not apply.
The review took place 17 days after what Smith termed a "shattering" loss to Australia in the last minute of the deciding Tri-Nations test in Sydney.
"I went into the interview wondering if I was the man to take the team forward, and if I was the right man to take the team to the World Cup."
But Smith has no self-doubts now and he believes a period of self-reflection will make him a better coach.
He said he needed time to reflect after the exhaustive, eight-hour review and personal interview on September 18.
After returning home that night, "I was able to see it in black and white.
"When I talked to the family and other people who really matter in my life, I felt I had the passion for it and I had the strength to do it, because I've proven that over the last five years [of professional coaching]."
Smith rang the union the day after the interview and said: "Advertise it, I'm applying."
His family were "steeled up" about him resuming as the coach. When he left his elderly parents on Wednesday, their parting words were: "Son, you go for it."
Applications for the coach close tomorrow. John Boe, the Manu Samoa coach, has applied and Peter Sloane, Robbie Deans and Gilbert are expected to.
Smith has backed his forwards coach Gilbert but has not ruled out bringing on other technical assistants if he was reappointed.
It was "misinformation" to suggest that Gilbert was a specialist backs coach, said Smith.
"Tony's played in the forwards and he's always coached the forwards. He only coached the backs for the New Zealand Colts because he was given [former All Black] Frank Oliver as an assistant.
"Tony's been totally supportive. I have huge respect for the man. He's wise and he's highly respected within the team."
Smith also defended All Blacks manager Andrew Martin, a former Army colonel who has been nicknamed "Colonel Cuddle" by some media because of a tendency to stalk the sidelines in shorts or tracksuit and to hug players leaving or taking the field.
"I've never, ever had a harder working, more passionate manager."
Smith clarified a comment he made after returning home from the Sydney defeat.
"At Christchurch Airport someone asked me about the lineouts, and I made a statement that they weren't really my area of expertise or responsibility.
"Clearly they are my accountability ... If the lineouts are a shambles that's my fault.
"But there are people with more lineout expertise than me. Tony's far more expert than I am, and some of the players are, too."