The fifth in a five-part series of writers from the various New Zealand Super Rugby franchises giving their season ending exit interviews. The Crusaders.
Another Super Rugby Season has been and gone and another title ends up in Christchurch
How do they do this ? The hand of Sam Whitelock ? or more realistically a culture and a team focused environment
At the beginning of the season the Crusaders got of to their standard start of just getting past the Blues in game one and comprehensively beating the Canes in the second round. They were always going to be the favourites for the New Zealand conference and most fans always knew that they would drop a couple of games. Surprisingly those losses came against the Waratahs and even more surprisingly against the Chiefs after going up 20-0 (the point of playing a game in Fiji is ?)
Performance of the season had to be the complete shutout of the Rebels with players scoring at will. Hardly a shock result but with 66 scored and none against it was the largest scoreline of the Super Rugby comp
Still one cannot really complain with three titles in a row.
The talkback is always full of the view that the Crusaders get the pick of the best players – but really ? Richie Mo’unga was a revelation this season and cemented his All Black credentials even more so and Will Jordan before he was injured was whispered as being a World Cup bolter by some. These are both homegrown players who cut their teeth in the Canterbury underage set up. Maybe developing your own first by other teams is the way to go ?
But those who are let go the Crusaders usually gain. The Blues and Chiefs need to have a long hard look at themselves by not having the faith in Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece respectively. Both now All Blacks. Of course players will look elsewhere if overlooked. These two were standouts and although there were plenty of others who stood up when it counted.
The Southern derby against the Highlanders was a masterclass (Squires yellow card would probably have not made a difference to actual result )
The Crusaders renowned for winning those tight games is starting to falter. They contributed to three of six draws in Super Rugby this season (one an anomaly as a postponed game) . however one was a comeback the other a choke but still. The semi against the Hurricanes was too close scoreline wise after holding a comfortable lead – a common theme throughout the season in some games. Halfback is a concern with no clear player who can put a full 80 at physical pace. The rate of injuries to props may be a sign of age with Perry only lasting 20 odd minutes in the first game and that was it for the season, and Moody, Franks and Taylor as an All Black front row only played three games together all season. Minor concerns in the grand scheme of things. Two influential coaches in Brad Mooar and Ronan O’Gara both depart for head coaching roles in Europe so the conveyor belt of assistant coaches will have to start again (who would turn down one of those roles in reality if offered ?)
Where to in 2020 ?
Scott Robertson is not the man for the All Black head coach – yet. The feeling is he would not enjoy the corporate culture and the PR control that the head office run is not him. He certainly knows how to rotate a team and his demeanour is something else. Other coaches would have made a drama out of reffing errors in South Africa but not our Razor. Breakdancing on title nights need to keep on coming. If that’s what some find as too obscure then they maybe need to look at how rugby is struggling in terms of crowds and freshness.
Is one team dominating New Zealand rugby a good thing ? Time will tell in Japan later on in the year however it would be nice if other franchises stepped up too.
A halfback in the mould of Justin Marshall may be in order but otherwise some diamonds from the rough will come through as they do. Manage Mattake injured in week one will be back in 2020 which will add to the stock of flying wingers. Watch out for Leicester Faingaanuku from the Crusaders Development team to make his mark next season as well.
Odds on a quadruple ?
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