Enter Mark Robinson.
On Sunday morning, a media conference was scheduled for 5:30 pm NZT, with Robinson. The timing, so close to major television new broadcasts, inevitably prompted rumors over what was to come.
Privately, media were advised there would be no major announcements forthcoming. But in the spirit of transparency, and desperate to prove he wasn’t hiding, Robinson was made available to media.
Now, media are not going to say no to this. News organizations have an insatiable hunger for content, and this was an opportunity to ask Robinson to endorse Foster in the wake of a morale boosting win that has provided a compelling counter-argument to claims he is not the man to continue as All Blacks coach.
Now, instead of the focus being fixed on a remarkable win at Ellis Park, NZ Rugby had seized the opportunity to cast further doubt on Foster’s future with a media conference in which Robinson made himself available to say precisely nothing of substance.
For the first time in a long time, fans were not calling for the coach of the All Blacks to be sacked, because his team had just beaten the Springboks in South Africa. But yet here we were, Robinson at the ready, subjecting himself to questions he not only didn’t need to be answering, but couldn’t answer.
He wasn’t prepared to back Foster, and after a series of probing questions met with underwhelming answers that saw Robinson shift awkwardly in his chair on multiple occasions as he found new ways to say “no comment”, the only obvious question on the minds of all those in the zoom room was: “why are we here?”
A negative headline had been created on a day when the organization and the team genuinely, finally, had something positive to celebrate.
It was a perfect illustration of the contrasting PR issues facing the game.