Ian Foster confirms he will continue coaching, once he vacates his All Blacks position for Scott Robertson.
All year, the World Cup campaign has been underscored by the storyline of Foster and a core of senior players serving out their final seasons with the team.
While the player exodus comes by choice, Foster’s comes after NZ Rugby broke with tradition to appoint a successor early. He has named what will likely be his final All Blacks side to meet the Springboks at the Stade de France on Sunday (NZ time).
This week has been dominated by the idea of players and coaches – on both sides – leaving, with both New Zealand and South Africa wanting to concentrate on the job at hand, before reflecting after the final whistle.
While he’s yet to reveal exactly what his next move will be, Foster, 58, will continue working as a coach, rather than step aside or even backwards.
“I’ve got lots of ideas, but first I’m going to mow my lawns,” he joked. “I will be coaching though, by the way.”
Foster’s road to this World Cup final has been anything but easy. He was largely seen as the safe choice to replace Sir Steve Hansen after the 2019 World Cup and endured some of the lowest moments of any All Blacks coach.
A historic series loss to Ireland left Foster on the brink of losing his job, before an incredible victory over South Africa at Ellis Park ultimately saved him.
While large parts of the public haven’t completely accepted him as coach until this year’s World Cup run, Foster understands the pressure and criticism that has come his way.
The lessons learned on that road have also proven invaluable to the All Blacks, now one win away from a record fourth Webb Ellis Cup.
“It’s the life in this business,” he added. “It’s a tough game.
“It’s a tough game when you’re trying to get your performance right and it’s a tough game when people around you see things differently, but we’ve learned a lot about ourselves.
“We take massive pride in the jersey and making sure that we achieve the levels that we want to.
“The rest of that’s probably a conversation for another day. I keep pulling it back to the fact that it hasn’t altered our vision of where we wanted this team to be.
“I know we’ve probably surprised a few people, but I don’t think we’ve surprised ourselves.”
For the All Blacks players, the road has been equally as difficult. The playing group have previously admitted fault lies with them ahead of their coach and never wavered in their belief they could win this World Cup.
Now, with history in their sights, there would be nothing sweeter for this team than doing it for Foster on the biggest stage.
“It’s pretty special, I think,” said lock Brodie Retallick. “It was probably the rockiest – if that’s what you want to label it – time within my tenure in the All Black jersey.
“To see what both Fozzy and Sam [Cane] went through off the field… the proudest bit is that he’s come out of that and coached this group to where we all knew we needed to be.
“The ultimate pay of respect would be to get the job done on Saturday night and show how much the players have enjoyed having him as a head coach.”
The All Blacks and South Africa have met five times at World Cups, with New Zealand holding a 3-2 advantage, but the Springboks emerged victorious in their only previous final meeting, winning their first title in 1995.
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