They play their home games in a stadium with the aesthetics of a car park and all the warmth of an abattoir, but there is hope on the horizon for the Crusaders and their loyal fans as far as a new base goes and reassurance too that their head coach Scott Robertson isn't going anywhere.

Let's deal with Robertson, a coach in his second year at this level and with a title already to his name and another within arm's reach, first.

He has been, to put it mildly, a revelation in terms of leadership and getting the best out of vastly experienced players who have presumably seen and heard it all before.

The 43-year-old former All Black and Crusaders loose forward has overseen only three defeats in two years. He made history when he took his team to Johannesburg for the grand final last year and beat the Lions – the first overseas team to win a final in South Africa – and his side are hot favourites to do it again in Christchurch tomorrow night.

Advertisement

Not surprisingly, given what is at stake, he is refusing to comment about whether he will perform his trademark breakdancing on the pitch if his side win, but it's fair to say his players will give him little choice should they do so.

He is already being talked about as an All Black coach – and sooner rather than later – and will have suitors lining up around the world should he hint he would like to explore different opportunities, but he's not interested in playing those sorts of games, telling the Herald he wants to sign an extension to his contract, which runs out next year, and stay with his family in Christchurch.

"I've always wanted to stay here," Robertson said. "I love it. There will be a review after the season is finished – that's part of the contract stipulation – and talks will start next year about hopefully how long they would like me for."

One could easily imagine Robertson staying at the Crusaders until he is All Blacks coach. Should Steve Hansen call it quits after the World Cup next year, as he has said he will, then Robertson will be at the front of the queue to succeed Hansen's successor.

He freely admits he is still learning and developing as a coach and wouldn't be ready to take over next year, but another three or four years could see him ideally positioned to go to the next level.

"It's like anything in life. Opportunities come up and if the timing is right you look at them," he said. "I've been coaching for quite a long time. I'm 43 and I started at 32. That's 11 years, and I've had some great mentors and great coaches to learn off – people I trust.

"One thing I've learned is you have to be patient. Time is something that benefits you as a coach. I'm definitely not in a rush. The more patient I've been probably the more settled it's been for me.

"You're always learning. I think the big thing is about understanding yourself and your coaching group and your players. You have to build respect. Retention is just as important as recruitment because that gives you consistency. It's something I pride myself on… people enjoying the environment and wanting to stay."

The Crusaders want him to stay, and so too will New Zealand Rugby. Such has been Robertson's ability to create a positive, winning, culture and have every single member of the squad playing to their potential that it would be disastrous for the national organisation should Robertson seek work offshore.

Scott Robertson, Samuel Whitelock and Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty (L-R) look on during a Crusaders media sessio
Scott Robertson, Samuel Whitelock and Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty (L-R) look on during a Crusaders media sessio

"We're dead keen for him to stay too so those signals from him are great," said Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach, who acknowledged Robertson's importance to the wider franchise – not just the team itself.

"We've been pretty lucky – we've had great head coaches all the way through in terms of how they see that wider part of their role. When you think back to Wayne Smith and Robbie Deans and Todd [Blackadder] and certainly Razor, they spend a lot of time working on the Crusaders connections in the community with the commercial partners and supporting teams and development."

The stadium question is more complicated. Should the Crusaders qualify for a home final next year or the year after, they will still be playing in a temporary stadium effectively not fit for purpose so it won't be a quick fix.

The Christchurch City Council has a new stadium in its long-term plans and now central government must come to the party in terms of funding, but all appear to be aligned and accepting that it must be built as a priority.

It could be built in four or five years, but Riach, who is leaving the franchise at the end of the month, is optimistic construction could start next year or the year after.

"There is political will to see a spade in the ground some time in the next 12 months or 18 months. It's coming and I'm as optimistic as I've ever been about it with the goodwill and energy that the decision-makers have got in behind it."

It's 10 years since the Crusaders last hosted a final and a lot has happened since. The spectre of the 2011 earthquakes will loom over this province for a long time, but change is coming and as long as Robertson is in charge the Crusaders' supporters will believe that anything is possible.

"Win, lose or draw, it's a hell of an occasion," Riach said. "The opportunity to host such a game is really special. There's a lot of excitement here this week – it has a lot of meaning for people."