Steve Hansen is on the way to becoming the greatest coach test rugby has seen as his team sweeps aside all comers with a ruthless flair. Here are 11 things you need to know about the 57-year-old All Blacks supremo.
1) Hansen’s record as head coach isn’t off the chart – it’s off the planet. Since the former assistant took over after the 2011 World Cup, he has won 58, lost 3 and drawn 2. That’s a winning ratio of 92 per cent. The All Blacks average more than four tries per test during his reign, and the average winning margin is about 19 points. In 2013, his All Blacks were the first test team to have a perfect season. The number which head coach Hansen is no doubt proudest of is one out of one – the 2015 World Cup victory. While Hansen has been in charge, Australia has lost 28 games, France 27, Wales 26, Ireland 20, South Africa 19, and England 17.
2) His nickname is “Shag”. Hansen told the Herald: “Like every nickname there’s a story behind it and unfortunately it’s not the story that everyone thinks it is.” New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew gave Hansen the handle when they worked at Canterbury, to avoid confusion around having two top dogs called Steve. According to Tew, Hansen had a habit of calling everyone else Shag, so he simply reversed it.
3) Hansen was born in Mosgiel, close to Dunedin, which has produced a number of top sports people including another rugby World Cup winner in hardman lock Brad Thorn and outstanding former All White Michael McGarry.
4) It may seem rather funny now…but the burly Hansen grew up dreaming of being a jockey. His family bred, trained and raced gallopers. “I kind of outgrew that,” said Hansen. He was a freezing works inspector then a police constable.
5) You have to be there to really enjoy his knack for quips – the deep and dry delivery allied to a trademark look adds punch to the lines. But here goes.
Hansen replied “Just my arm” when asked what was up his sleeve. On the relationship with France, Hansen reckoned: “…apart from the Rainbow Warrior we’ve been on the same page most of the time.” On Australia’s decision not to refer to them as the All Blacks, the coach said: “They can call us what they want. Being Aussies, they probably will.”
6) Hansen told the Herald he learnt a lot about handling people from horses. He even took a course in horse whispering, and had to deal with a particularly skittish nag.
“There was no way I could bully it. I had to take my time with it and watch its body language. It was a really interesting process to learn from.”
The biggest influence is his late father Des, a well respected coach who believed building relationships was at the core of the art.
“He’s been a massive influence on my life in a positive way. I’ve been lucky in coaching being associated with other people as well and they’ve helped me to grow, but the basics definitely come from him,” Hansen told Stuff.
7) Hansen had a brief career at centre for Canterbury then coached them to two NPC titles. He was never head coach of a Super Rugby side but assisted Robbie Deans at the Crusaders in 2000 and 2001.
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Hansen once revealed how much a black jersey would have meant to him. “I was never good enough to play for the All Blacks…I’d give up everything I’ve done in coaching to play one game”.
8) Hansen married longtime partner Tash Marshall in 2014. On his two previous marriages, Hansen has said: “…you can blame me… I’m not going to put that on rugby. Breakdowns happen because two people don’t get it right for whatever reason.” Hansen has two daughters and two sons from those previous marriages.
9) He had a tough time as head coach of Wales, yet the players revered him. The 92-test forward Gareth Llewellyn scoffed at claims anyone could have coached the All Blacks to their current record.
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“Those who say that are under-estimating Steve’s ability, the way he challenges people to get the best out of them,” Llewellyn told British writer Peter Jackson recently.
“He had a great sense of humour. There were two amazing things about him: One, he created such a good environment – we loved turning up for training despite the results. Two, during that losing run, he never let it show that he was under pressure. He had total faith in his convictions.
“And he was a great bloke away from rugby. What he has done is the stuff of legend.”
10) He’s proved a lot smarter and more flexible than many predicted. At one point, Hansen sought the help of former TVNZ boss Ian Fraser about media relations.
“I’d had a gutsful and thought I would take them on. I found out the media are mightier than the individual and they fought back and it wasn’t pretty,” he said.
“My background is as a policeman and you don’t say too much when you’re a policeman. After 2009, I sought help with that to see if I could do it a different way but still protect the integrity of my players.”
11) After planning to quit after next year’s Lions tour, Hansen has signed on until the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and even left the door open to stay on beyond that. “But there is only one Arch Jelley (legendary Auckland athletics coach) so I won’t be coaching at 94,” said Hansen, in typical style.