Fourteen things to know about All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

2018-12-07 16:47:52

Steve Hansen will soon make an announcement on his future plans with the All Blacks. Does he want to stay on as head coach after the 2019 World Cup, or will he retire?

To while away the time until Hansen declares his hand, it seems timely to refresh ourselves with details of his achievements and how he rolls when spending time inside and outside the rugby tent.


Since Hansen was appointed head coach in 2012 the All Blacks have won just under 90 per cent of their tests.

There can be no disputing the fact that he has the ability to squeeze the best of this team. Here's the All Blacks' record under Hansen: 96 tests played, 86 won, seven lost, and three drawn.

There's a good reason why many New Zealanders remember the dud results more than the victories. They are rare blips in a record littered with Ws, and the odd D.

The losses during Hansen's tenure have been against Ireland (twice), Australia (twice), South Africa (twice) and the British and Irish Lions. The draws were against the Aussies (twice) and the Lions.


Hansen was raised on his parents dairy farm in Mosgiel, near Dunedin. The family moved to Christchurch when he was 15, where he attended Christchurch Boys' High School and was good enough to represent the 1st XV.

It was during one of the inter-school games in Christchurch that he crossed paths with a teenager who was, like Hansen, to go on and build himself a big reputation as a rugby coach. Robbie Deans was a member of the Christ's College 1st XV, a major rival of CBHS in the Garden City.


A centre, Hansen briefly played for Canterbury but was used more by the Canterbury B team. He also went to France, where he enjoyed a brief stint with a club, before returning to New Zealand.


Hansen hasn't been afraid to say he didn't achieve great things as an academic at school. He says he wished he had been more diligent in the classroom, but has also noted he gathered valuable life skills working in the freezing works and, later, as a policeman.

After eight years as a cop, Hansen found work with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union in the mid-1990s and it was then that his professional coaching career began to take off.


Although he guided Canterbury to a couple of national provincial titles, Hansen has never been the head coach of a Super Rugby side. Hansen assisted Wayne Smith and, later, Deans at the Crusaders between 1999 and 2001.

When the relationship between head coach Deans and assistant Hansen became less than harmonious the latter left New Zealand after Graham Henry, then the coach of Wales, invited him to move north. When Henry suddenly departed, Hansen took over the top job in 2002 before returning to work as Henry's assistant with the All Blacks in 2004.

When Deans left for Australia after the 2008 season Hansen tried to convince the NZ Rugby board he could coach the Crusaders, and also stay with the All Blacks. They declined his offer, saying they wanted to stick to the policy of using Super Rugby as a pathway to blood promising coaches.

The Crusaders board appointed Todd Blackadder as Deans's successor.


Hansen is known as 'Shag' to his mates. According to those who have played and worked alongside him in the past, he was tagged with this nickname because he had the habit of calling others 'Shag' and they decided to turn it back on him.

When Hansen played for the Marist club in Christchurch he was sometimes referred to as 'Ox'.


He married Tash Marshall in 2014. Two previous marriages did not work out. Before tying the knot with Marshall Hansen told Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain at the time, that he didn't want to get offside by sending invites to some players but not others. So 'Ricko', as McCaw was known to his mates, wasn't asked to attend the nuptials.


A keen investor in racehorses, Hansen dreamed of being a jockey as a youngster. The more he kept growing, the less likely it was to be.

He owns thoroughbreds that race on both sides of the Tasman, and is a part owner of Nature Strip. This speed machine is one of the quickest gallopers in the world over 1,000m, and in the stable of high profile trainer Darren Weir.


During the eight years working as Henry's assistant, Hansen didn't have much time for the media. A lot of folks will say there is nothing wrong with that, either. No worries. But it didn't do his public image much good.

When Hansen prodded the fourth estate, he discovered some of them had a backbone and decided they could push back even harder.

So Hansen consulted former jouro turned PR advisor Ian Fraser, and elected to win this battle another way. By the time he had been appointed head coach in 2012 Hansen had morphed into a much slicker operator in front of the microphones and cameras. He even seems to enjoy it.


If he is feeling frustrated, or feels the need to blow off steam, Hansen says he will ask one of his trusted colleagues from the All Blacks' management team to spare a friendly ear.

This, in his own words, is how he goes about it:  "You go into it saying 'I need to vent for five minutes and don't need you to find me a solution and I don't want a solution - I just want a vent'.

"I think that is healthy. I have had plenty of people come to me and say the same thing."


The unceremonious dumping of halfback Andy Ellis by Hansen when he replaced Henry as All Blacks head coach in 2012 wasn't a popular call in his home province of Canterbury.

Ellis, who earned 26 test caps between 2006 and 2011, only played two more tests under Hansen before going overseas after the 2016 Super Rugby season. Ellis was instrumental in the All Blacks maintaining control of the World Cup final against France in Auckland in 2011, but was given the cold shoulder by Hansen.

All Blacks centre Conrad Smith was much more fortunate, being retained by Hansen during his first four years in charge.

However Smith might have taken a while to get over Hansen's decision to replace him with Sonny Bill Williams during the halftime break of the World Cup final against Australia in Twickenham in 2015. It was well documented that it was to be Smith's final game for his country.

Yet it didn't save Smith. He was unexpectedly yanked, and his days in black were over.


You can usually trust Hansen to entertain when he's up for it during media sessions. They can be good value. Which makes you wonder what he couldn't have been like this earlier in his coaching career, when he prowled around like a sleepless doorman with a hangover.

But, make no mistake, if Hansen doesn't agree with something that has been written, or said, he can unleash colourful bursts that cause your eardrums to hum for several hours after the conflict.

If he's going to town over the phone, here's some friendly advice for the recipient: Put the receiver down on the bench top, pop the crumpets in the toaster and turn the dial to its highest point.

When the morsels are burnt to a crisp, remove and add your favourite topping. By now the verbal storm might be nearing its end. Enjoy.


Hansen can deliver entertaining sound bites. And he is also prepared to have a dig - whether it be at an opposition coach, a critic or even the World Rugby organisation - if he feels his team, players, or himself, have been slighted or copped a rough deal. Make no mistake, there is something refreshing about that. The game needs personalities.

Here's a couple of quotes from the Hansen era. They are not necessarily the pick of the bunch, but they at least provide a small insight.

Before the All Blacks played France in the World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff in 2015, Hansen reminded Les Bleus that he hadn't forgotten the incident involving the sinking of the the Rainbow Warrior by French foreign intelligence services in 1985.

"There has been a great relationship between the two countries for a long, long time and, apart from the Rainbow Warrior, we've probably been on the same page most of the time."

After that match, which the All Blacks won 62-13 in Cardiff, Hansen was asked at a media conference if he had anything else up his sleeve: "Just my arm," he replied.

It was one of those you-have-to-be-there moments. Even Hansen seemed surprised by the reaction. One TV type almost toppled off his stool with laughter. Snort! It actually wasn't that funny. But you get the picture.


If he decides to end his coaching tenure after the World Cup, don't expect Hansen to search for work with another international team. During the All Blacks' tour of the northern hemisphere he went on the record to say it wasn't in his short-term plans.

"I would be better off staying where I am; it doesn't matter what team you coach the time commitments and pressures are pretty similar. I couldn't see any point in doing that."

Back to the top ^

Related Articles (30)