All Blacks forward Ardie Savea insisted Ian Foster has the full backing of his players after their 35-23 win over South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday eased some of the pressure on the embattled coach.
But New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson on Sunday afternoon [NZT] refused to guarantee Foster’s future as national coach, offering little more than to say the board would be considering his position over the coming days.
“We’ve been having conversations right through this time, we believe we know where we stand and we’ve just got to work through that with him,” he said. “We’ll take stock of the conversations, the information coming out of the camp and comment later in the week.
“These have been challenging times right through the last few weeks. There is a huge amount of passion and speculation, a huge amount of expectation around the team and organisation, and we need to take the time we’ve got to set this team up for everything it needs to be successful.”
NZR has also come in for heavy criticism itself, with suggestions it has not supported Foster through the difficult period. Media reports also suggested Robinson had exchanged heated words with some senior All Blacks players following Saturday night’s win over the Springboks.
“I don’t believe [there is a disconnect],” he said. “These are challenging times right across the organisation. We have good dialogue and we’re working hard together to make sure this team has got everything it needs to be successful.
“We’ve absolutely supported the coach. We’re just at a critical time where we’re assessing performance. We just need to work through this period of wanting to understand where the next steps are with this management team.”
Foster’s position at the helm of the three-time world champions has been called into question following a run of five losses in the previous six games, but Savea stressed the entire squad continue to support the former fly-half.
“For me personally, that is my coach and I back him 100 percent, side-by-side,” said Savea.
“He’s been under a lot of pressure and I know Foz doesn’t want to make it about himself, but I just want him to know that we have got his back and all the players have got his back.
“He’s a great coach and he’s got great coaches beside him, who back him fully, 100 percent. And I hope everyone that listens, that reads this, backs us.”
Despite the impressive nature of the victory at Ellis Park, the All Blacks sit on the bottom of the table with four points from their first two games in this year’s Rugby Championship.
New Zealand have only failed to win the four-nation tournament on two of the nine times it has been played since it was launched in 2012.
“With our sport there’s always doubters and a bit of negativity but that’s okay, because it makes everyone better,” said Savea.
“And people care. Our fans care. The media care. Which is fair.
“But we have got to stand up and do our job and I’m just happy we did that tonight.
“When people go through adversity, when they are stuck in the trenches, there are some things that come out and you don’t know what helps us to come out of that and that makes us special.
“So today that was it, but it’s only a start. We’ve won one out of two games (in the Rugby Championship). We’ve got to keep going.”