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A long-lasting legacy with the black jersey: The incredible rugby career of departing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

With the final whistle blown in Tokyo last night, Steve Hansen’s time as All Blacks coach officially came to an end.

Departing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Source: Getty

After eight seasons in the job, the 60-year-old is moving on from his post and letting the next All Blacks coach make their own contributions to the legacy of the black jersey.

That concept - the legacy of the black jersey - has been central to Hansen's philosophy while coaching the All Blacks and, perhaps ironically, has led him to add to it generously himself.

Whether it was the attacking style he entrusted with his players, the "walk towards pressure" mindset he implanted in them, or simply the witty remarks he gave to media - Hansen always made things about the team and never himself.

It led to an era of dominance rarely seen in sport and while it may not have the brightest of endings, is still one that will be revered for years to come.

But before that era could even begin, Hansen had to discover the game first and fall in love with it.

From farmland to First XV

Steve Hansen, left, makes a run for Canterbury. Source: Photosport

Hansen was raised on his parents' dairy farm in Mosgiel near Dunedin but moved with his family to Christchurch when he was 15. There he attended Christchurch Boys’ High School and his knack for the game was quickly discovered.

As a centre, Hansen cracked the First XV and went onto briefly represent Canterbury, playing 21 matches in red and black.

However, he spent more of his time in the B side.

Away from the field, he worked as a policeman for eight years [which would later play a role in him being made honorary police chief of Beppu at this year’s World Cup] before he found work with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union in the mid-1990s.

It was here that Hansen’s coaching career took its first step.

To the other side of the world and back

Coach Steve Hansen speaks with Chris Wyatt during Wales training at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

Hansen coached the provincial side from 1996 to 2001, winning NPC titles in 1997 and 2001. During that time, Hansen also assisted Wayne Smith and, later, Robbie Deans with the Crusaders in Super Rugby from 1999 to 2001.

But Hansen’s time with the Crusaders came to a swift end when he got an invitation from then Wales coach Sir Graham Henry.

When Henry made a sudden exit, Hansen took over the top role in 2002 but he was given a rough introduction to international rugby.

Hansen oversaw 30 Tests while he was head coach of Wales but only amassed 10 victories in that time. All those wins came from smaller opponents such as Fiji, Scotland, Italy, Canada and Tonga but when his men went up against the powerhouses of the game – Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa – he finished winless.

That wasn’t to say Wales weren’t close though. At the 2003 World Cup, Hansen’s men put up a spirited performance against the All Blacks in pool play, losing 53-37 in their final game before the quarter-finals.

In the knockout stages, they bowed out to eventual champions England and a superb kicking performance from Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked six penalties, a conversion and even a drop goal to ensure they claimed the win – the quarter-final scoreline finished up 28-17.

Hansen stepped down from the Wales role after deciding not to seek a renewal of his contract and was succeeded by Mike Ruddock, but he was soon back on the international scene with a familiar face in a familiar place.

The peaks and troughs of life with the All Blacks

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The All Blacks coach says the team's attitude wasn't where it needed to be ahead of their shock quarterfinal exit in Cardiff. Source: 1 Sport

In 2004, Hansen was appointed as All Blacks assistant coach to Sir Graham and remained in the role for seven years.

In that time, he experienced both the highest and lowest point the All Blacks have experienced – the 2007 World Cup quarter-final exit in Cardiff and the 2011 World Cup triumph on home soil.

Also during that time, Hansen tried to become the Crusaders coach when Robbie Deans left to take over the Wallabies in 2008 but NZ Rugby declined the offer, wanting to keep Super Rugby as a place to develop promising coaches.

As such, Todd Blackadder was named as Deans’ successor.

His next application to NZR was much more fruitful though, with the student becoming the teacher and Hansen taking over from Sir Graham in 2012.

And thus, Hansen began to forge his legacy.

The numbers, the trophies… and the heartache

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The All Blacks coach also spoke to his predecessor Sir Graham Henry after the match. Source: 1 NEWS

Since taking over in 2012, the All Blacks have played 107 Tests under the Mosgiel mastermind.

With last night’s 40-17 win over Wales, Hansen’s record with New Zealand finished at 93 wins, four draws and just 10 losses for an 88.79 win percentage – the best in international rugby history for any coach who has overseen 15 or more Tests.

That percentage beats New Zealand’s other two World Cup-winning coaches Sir Brian Lochore [77.8 per cent] and Sir Graham [85.3 per cent] easily.

The only man to better Hansen’s numbers is Sir Fred Allen who won all 14 Tests as All Blacks coach between 1966 and 1968 – including the 4-0 whitewash of the British and Irish Lions during their 1966 Tour. But times have changed, and the professional game has produced more challenges and challengers.

On top of those numbers, the trophy cabinet Hansen has managed to fill is nothing short of stunning.

Aside from keeping the Webb Ellis Cup locked away in 2015, Hansen also coached the All Blacks to six Rugby Championship titles and retained the Bledisloe Cup [against Australia], Freedom Cup [against South Africa], and Dave Gallaher Trophy [against France] in all eight seasons. After losing the Hilary Shield in 2012 to England, the All Blacks also put that back in the cabinet the following year and haven’t lost it since.

The team was also named World Rugby Team of the Year six times [2012—2017] and won the prestigious Laureus Team of the Year award in 2016.

On a more personal level, Hansen has also won World Rugby’s coach of the year four times [2012-2014, 2016].

Hansen had hoped to make history as the first two-time World Cup winning coach in Japan this year however last week’s 19-7 loss to England saw him come up short.

But that led to a new side of Hansen seen by media, as he choked up while discussing the personal phone call he made to his wife shortly after the defeat – the latest of many surprising interactions at press conferences from the All Blacks coach.

A way with words

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He’s a pretty good coach, but the All Blacks boss’ sense of humour also ranks highly. Source: Seven Sharp

Throughout Hansen’s time in charge, he hasn’t just outwitted or surprised his opponents.

With his wit, short one-liners, or even turning the table with a question of his own, the All Blacks coach has also caught journalists off-guard during press conferences at times as well.

One of his best dates back to the 2015 Rugby World Cup when he was asked during their triumphant campaign if he had anything else up his sleeve to which he simply replied "just my arm".

He also wasn’t afraid to raise eyebrows with his comments, such as the time he compared Sonny Bill Williams to an "old meat pie" or his belief that "controlled excitement behind closed doors is always important".

Either way, much like his team, when Hansen was on-form he was unstoppable.

The next step, and the permanent footprint left behind

With the All Blacks finished in Japan now, Hansen’s focuses turn elsewhere and a rumoured job as director of rugby at Toyota Verblitz in Japan appears to be on the horizon.

Should that move come to fruition, he would have a few Kiwi faces awaiting him in Japan with former All Blacks assistant Wayne Smith and Robbie Deans both holding director of rugby roles at Kobelco Steelers and Panasonic Wild Knights, respectively.

Departing All Blacks captain Kieran Read is also joining Toyota, meaning Hansen will still have something familiar in his new role.

Hansen has yet to confirm that move but did admit he has a next step planned after the World Cup.

"I'm going somewhere else after this. I'll have plenty of time to reflect there with a cold beer, a hot towel, and anything else you want me to have.”

Needless to say, there’s one thing he’ll have wherever he goes.

A long-lasting legacy.