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JUST two years ago the Crusaders faced a dilemma.

A new coach was needed. Did they stick with tradition and promote from within their system, or at least one of their alumni, or after eight  years without a trophy, was it time to cast the net a bit wider and find some fresh thinking?
In the end they did both.

They found a good old boy with whole new approach. Grim was out, outside the square was in.

OK, Scott Robertson arrived with a fair bit already in place.

The Crusaders have always provided an environment in which players could excel, and they do recruiting better than anyone else.

But other ways have changed. Instead of a staff of high profile former team-mates he has two men with a background in club and Heartland rugby, plus a former Irish international. The selection of Ronan O’Gara was a bolt from the blue and not everyone was happy about it at the time.

Not many are complaining now.

As well as develop their game…and the advances in their attacking back-play in the last two years have been significant, they went way off the reservation for ways to build the team dynamic, including Brad Mooar’s trip to the US Army base at Fort Bragg in the States.

The result is a team that can play different ways dependent on the conditions, the opposition and the circumstances.
They all look happy in their work, and they’re as good a team this competition has seen for a long time.

We can’t say yet where this vintage of the Crusaders stack up with the rest because the story isn’t over. We may not have seen that Dad Dance Routine for the last time.


THE old one was the most talked about player in world rugby.

The new one is nowhere near that level but Richie Mo’unga is the most talked about player in New Zealand right now.

The Rolls Royce pack did its job again, and that certainly makes life easier for a No.10, but it’s not like he was free riding around on the back bumper.

He wasn’t flawless, there was a duffed chip kick and a couple of missed tackles, but he was still the most influential individual on the park, and in a final that is big news. 

We already know he won’t start in the first two Bledisloe Cup tests. That was flagged by the coach last week when he made his reference to the Rolls Royce. He probably won’t be on the bench either because they believe in what Damien McKenzie brings.

And let’s not forget, while Beauden Barrett may not have been at his brilliant best this season, he has a proven record at elite level, and has been acclaimed as one of the best players in the game in recent years, at times THE best. They’re not going to just chuck that out the door.

But Mo’unga is worthy of a shot. He appears best suited to a starting role rather than as a sub. Nelson maybe?


THE last Super Rugby final in Christchurch had been at the “other” AMI Stadium. Ten Years ago.

Since then the city has been ripped apart by the earthquakes, Lancaster Park is a ghost town, and the final was played in a stadium built to service the city for no more than five years. The use by date was two years ago, and there is still no real sign of a new one.

It was good to see AMI full for the final, lucky that it was such a fine night.

But this team and this city deserves better than this now creaking Meccano set.

There are too many people on our local councils who get in on low voter turnout and pander to the squeaky wheel brigade. Some simply don’t like sport, especially rugby and can’t, or won’t see the bigger picture, and what a state of the art covered stadium could do for the whole city, not just one code. Christchurch is not alone in this regard.

I know there’s a fear that on top of all the new ways governments keep finding to take our hard earned pay off us, the ratepayers will cop the bill, but if people got clever that could be averted.

Build it, and they will surely come. Not just from within Canterbury, but from well beyond. And not just for rugby games.


THERE’S been much talk about the crowds, the need for a polishing up of the Super Rugby product, and a return to day games.
People like to point the finger at TV, blaming night time games and if there were more during the day we’d get bigger turnouts. 

The marketing people might only whisper it, but day games are just as hard to sell in many centres because people work, shop, play or watch other sport and do so much more on Saturdays. 

With few exceptions, our stadiums provide poor access, poor protection from the elements, have suffocating security, and overpriced food. Wrap it all up, add the costs, and where’s the value for money, the incentive to be there? 


IT’S onto the Investec Rugby Championship.

We have a week in between so take a breath. 

We’re just over a year out from the World Cup, and what happens over the next few months is going to tell us a lot.