Crusaders getting the best out of every player

Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013
Andy Ellis
ANDY ELLIS: The halfback is fit to play in the semifinal.

Relevant offers


Australia's domination of England chariot catapults them up World Cup power rankings Four burning questions about the Rugby World Cup with Toby Robson and Liam Napier Why can't the All Blacks put it together? Rugby World Cup pacesetting Wallabies set cracking pace for All Blacks stayers Mark Reason: England's ashes strewn all over Twickenham after record defeat Rugby World Cup nightmares to linger for England after loss to Wallabies John Campbell: Minnows with mojo sending a message Phil Gifford: All Blacks a misfiring Ferrari caught in suburban rush-hour traffic Toby Robson: Time for All Blacks to commit to their first-choice backline combination at the RWC David Campese: It's always a great feeling beating the Poms

OPINION: It was impossible not to admire the clinical way Todd Blackadder's Crusaders destroyed the Reds in their Super Rugby showdown over the weekend.

After their 38-9 demolition of the Reds, the Crusaders have reached the semi-finals yet again. They haven't been out of the top four since 2001.

The effect the Crusaders have had on New Zealand rugby since the game went professional has been colossal.

Amazingly, the Crusaders finished last, with just two wins, in the first year of Super Rugby - 1996.

But since then, they have won the crown seven times and made 10 finals. Not surprisingly, they have provided a vast array of All Blacks.

It is one thing for a team to enjoy a fantastic season or two, as the Chiefs are now, and as the Blues did in the 1990s, but to keep producing the goods year after year is that much more impressive.

Just look at how the formerly mighty Magic netball franchise is falling apart with the departure of coach Noeline Taurua. The Crusaders have survived changes of coaches and captains, retirements, sabbaticals and injuries and kept on winning.

Superstars Andrew Mehrtens, Daniel Carter, Justin Marshall and Richie McCaw have claimed many headlines, but I've been equally impressed with how goodish players such as Reuben Thorne, Caleb Ralph, Leon MacDonald, Daryl Gibson, Aaron Mauger, Scott Robertson, Greg Feek, Mark Hammett and Andy Ellis have been so much better when wearing Crusaders colours.

The franchise has the ability to squeeze the maximum out of most players - a rare gift.

If we look at the Super rugby landscape, the Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders have had plenty of talent to call on each season. The Highlanders have had a smaller talent pool and the Chiefs took more than a decade to get some cohesiveness in their campaigns after finally sorting out problems arising from the geography of the franchise.

Why then is the Crusaders' record so much better than everyone else's?

Auckland dominated New Zealand rugby from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, and provided the base for All Black teams in that period. The Auks brought ability to the All Blacks, but also a rather distasteful arrogance.

Since then, Canterbury and the Crusaders have been the All Blacks' engine room, and their players' honest endeavour has been laudable.

Successive Crusaders coaches Wayne Smith, Robbie Deans and Todd Blackadder and captains Reuben Thorne and McCaw have moulded just the sort of character All Black teams have needed.

Ad Feedback

One feature of the Crusaders is that when they simply have to win, they can produce the goods.

In 2002 they were so supreme they went through the season unbeaten, the only Super team to manage that feat. But in other years the title race has come down to one critical match, and generally that's when the Crusaders are at their best.

Look at this season. They began with four losses in seven matches, but have had just one defeat since, to the Chiefs. And they turned that result around when they needed to, with a comprehensive 43-15 victory earlier this month.

The Crusaders have timed their run to perfection, and only a wealthy man would bet against them closing out the season triumphantly.

- Waikato Times


Special offers
Opinion poll

What did you make of this year's ITM Cup?

It was as good a season as I can remember.

It was great to see the smaller provinces perform well.

I caught the odd game here and there.

Sorry, it was an utter snore-fest.

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content