The general populace of Christchurch, and more specifically, the population that eats, drinks and sleeps Super Rugby, are once again on top of the world as the Crusaders have been crowned Super Rugby champions with a 25 – 17 win over the South African Lions.
The Crusaders were the tourists, which made the win slightly more special, but that may have been tempered by the assistance of having a one-man advantage for the bulk of the game, or should we say, the last several minutes of the first and all of the second half. Lions’ flanker Kwagga Smith was sent off with a red card late in the first.
The championship was the eighth for the Crusaders, who had been experiencing a bit of a drought, having last won the top spot in 2008. In between that year and now, their best finish came as a second in 2011, where they lost to the Reds in the final. Last year and the year prior, they finished seventh. They did manage to get into the finals last year, losing to those same Lions in the quarterfinal.
Head Coach Scott Robertson and Captain Same Whitelock were obviously jubilant over the restoration of the Crusaders to Super Rugby prominence. “There’s a sense of relief,” Robertson said after the match on Saturday (NZT Sunday). “Back when I was playing, and I don’t I say that lightly, we had a championship team and you get a feeling. That is the feeling we had.”
The squad that won this year’s competition had only three players remaining from the 2008 team.
Robertson achieved the singular distinction of being the first person who can claim Super Rugby crowns as both a player and a coach. He was loose forward for the team that won four titles back in the late 90s and early 2000s.