Crusaders boss Scott Robertson on how to crack professional rugby
When someone offers advice on what is needed to make it as a professional rugby player, it can never hurt to listen.
When that person has played across the globe for 10 plus years, won a handful of professional rugby titles and played for the All Blacks, there’s a good chance he knows what he’s talking about.
And when that same person has also coached the Crusaders, arguably the most successful rugby franchise in the world, to five titles in five years, then most people probably stop what their doing and start taking notes.
Current Crusaders coach Scott Robertson knows plenty more than just how to breakdance.
He’s nurtured more than half of his current Super Rugby side into an All Blacks jerseys in recent years but said there’s no one perfect approach to making it as a professional rugby player.
“The players with the right mindset will always find a way to succeed in rugby and often they aren’t the players that standout at schoolboy level,” Robertson told Rugby News.
“Sometimes it takes guys a little longer to develop and to get the best out of themselves but when they get things right on and off the field, then at a certain age, things seem to click for them.
“We’ve had a number of great examples of guys who have joined us a few years after leaving school. A lot of front rowers and forwards in general need a bit longer because they still need to grow into their bodies”
Robertson made 22 appearances for the All Blacks as a backrower and played in New Zealand and Europe before turning his attention to coaching.
He coached the New Zealand under 20s side before taking over as Crusaders head coach in 2017.
“At the Crusaders, we’re really big on working with good people with great character, who have some rugby ability and a passion for the game,” he said.
“The structures we’ve got set up over here cater for all types of players because we think it’s all about getting the best out of yourself. If you’re willing to work hard, then we know we’ve got the environment to upskill you, if you’ve got the right mindset.”
In more recent times, Robertson has worked alongside Crusaders Academy director Grant Keenan to launch the UOW Crusaders Global Rugby Program in partnership with University of Wollongong.
Aspiring rugby players can study a degree at UOW or an affiliated college and train up to 20 hours a week under the watchful eye of Crusaders academy coach Simon Kneebone and a team of strength and conditioning coaches.
“The big thing for guys coming out of school and young players in general is that you’ve got to work hard to build your biggest asset and that’s your body,” Robertson said.
“You’ve got to find a way to get the best out of your body and not just build it for one or two years, but build it so it can last for 10 plus years of rugby.”
Robertson said that as rugby gets more and more physical and professional, the likelihood of players walking out of school and into a Super Rugby side is reducing.
“A lot of people think that rugby players are done if they aren’t in a Super Rugby academy by the time they’re 18 or 19 but I don’t think that’s true.
“If you’ve got your mindset right and you work hard on your body, then it can certainly happen for you in your early to mid 20s or even later in your career.”
The former backrower said a younger Robertson would have jumped at the opportunity to study at university while training in a full time academy and playing rugby with his mates.
“The great thing about being able to study, while you work on your rugby is that you get the best of both worlds.
“You’re able to set yourself up for life after rugby but you also have the opportunity and the time to work on the small parts of your game that might make the difference in your rugby career down the track. It’s pretty unique.
“It’s hard to do that while you’re doing a trade, or working long hours in an office but it’s achievable to do while you’re studying and surrounded by good people in a good environment.”
Aspiring rugby players can apply to join the UOW Crusaders Global Rugby Program now and begin studying and training on campus from February 2022.