If Scott Robertson wants to become the next All Blacks head coach, the carrot dangled in the near future that's kept the successful Crusaders coach in New Zealand for another three years, he must stay patient and work on his weaknesses.
That's the assessment of former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen, who says "Razor" is in the right place to take that next step towards New Zealand's top coaching job.
However, for now, Hansen is backing his former assistant Ian Foster, who is at the helm for at least until the end of the year when his contract is due for re-negotiation.
Speaking to the Newstalk ZB after news that Robertson had re-signed with New Zealand Rugby and the Crusaders until the end of 2024, Hansen said it was "great news" and praised what he has done with the Christchurch franchise.
"I think it's a good signing, he's a very good coach and somebody that we want to keep in New Zealand, so it's great news," Hansen said.
Robertson came close to succeeding Hansen – the most successful All Blacks coach of all time – in 2019, but ultimately lost out to Foster in a move that raised eyebrows in some quarters of New Zealand rugby.
The 46-year-old's charismatic style and admirably consistent record in Christchurch, leading the Crusaders to three Super Rugby titles in a row (followed by two more Aotearoa trophies since the decision to hire Foster), saw him preferred by many as the best direction for the All Blacks beyond the Hansen era.
The All Blacks ended up opting for continuity in the form of Foster, but the team got off to a shaky start in a disrupted 2020, ending the year with just three wins out of seven games, including back-to-back losses to the Pumas and the Wallabies.
It's left the door slightly ajar for Robertson, who has opted to stick it out in hopes for an opportunity to claim his dream job, whenever the opportunity arises. Robertson has even negotiated a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out early if he doesn't get the All Blacks job by 2023.
But Hansen, who has called on NZR to extend Foster's contract until the 2023 World Cup, believes there are still aspects of Robertson's coaching that he'll want to improve on, perhaps providing an insight into why he chose to publically endorse Foster for the job in 2019, aside from their close working relationship.
"[Robertson] creates relationships in the environments that he's in, he's a relationships person and he's a very positive person. He's not a guy that wants to sit still, he wants to continue to grow and he wants other people around him to do that.
"He'll continue to be very good at those, but there are other things he'll be looking to improve I'm sure. He'll know what his weaknesses are and he'll know he'll want to get better at certain things."
Hansen said he's confident Robertson will get another crack at the All Blacks coaching job sometime in the future.
"If Scott wants to coach the All Blacks, he's in the right place to do that. At some point, the opportunity's going to arise again and applications will come up, and he's in the running.
"But in the meantime he will concentrate hard on getting the Crusaders right, he won't have been that happy with their season this year, they lost three games which they've never done before under his tutelage in one year and they didn't make the final of the big dance.
"By his standards he'll look forward to next year and getting that done, but there's no doubt he's a great coach, and it's great to have great coaches coaching our players in New Zealand."
One aspect of Robertson's CV that might be lacking is international coaching experience, something he hoped to change by linking up with the British and Irish Lions this year.
While Covid-19 meant the sojourn with Warren Gatland's team didn't come to be, Hansen said Robertson wouldn't need international experience to become the All Blacks coach.
"They've just employed Ian Foster who hasn't gone overseas and he's gone through his experience all through New Zealand, and there's no reason why Scott can't do that either. I don't think he needs to go offshore, I just think he just needs to be given the opportunity at some point to coach the team.
"He hasn't yet, that's the job of Ian Foster at the moment, and it will be interesting if they do that and he then wins the World Cup, what are they going to do?
"Any business that doesn't have a succession plan is doomed to fail. It's the same in sport. You've got to know where your next coach is coming from, you've got to keep building them and growing them, and making sure that when the time comes, they're ready to go."
Hansen believes Robertson is in the future plans of the All Blacks, but also complimented other Kiwi coaches who have shined at Super Rugby level.
"We're very lucky at the moment we've got a guy that's ready to go, he's doing a good job, we've got other people in New Zealand who are getting ready to do the job, you've got Leon McDonald who did a fantastic job with the Blues this year, you look at the Highlanders with Browny (Tony Brown) going away and [Clarke] Dermody did very well.
"Those guys are going to continue to grow and at some point they're going to put their hand up. The more people we have who are capable of coaching the All Blacks, the better the rugby's going to be."