Super Rugby kings Crusaders face another rebuild

Crusaders players and team members celebrate their win in the Super Rugby final match between New Zealand's Crusaders and Argentina's Jaguares in Christchurch on July 6, 2019.
Crusaders players and team members celebrate their win in the Super Rugby final match between New Zealand's Crusaders and Argentina's Jaguares in Christchurch on July 6, 2019.
Image: Marty MELVILLE / AFP

When it was suggested to Scott Robertson that his all-conquering team may win the Super Rugby title eight years in a row‚ the wacky Crusaders coach got an unsurprising glint in his eye.

“That’s cool I’d go with that‚” said Robertson who has presided over the full restoration of the most dominant force in Super Rugby.

By beating the Jaguares 19-3 in the final on Saturday his team surged to the title for a third straight year.

It took them to an unprecedented 10th Super Rugby title in the tournament’s 23-year existence.

The new sequence of success followed a barren patch for the Crusaders who went without the title between 2009 and 2016.

Robertson‚ however‚ has overseen their return to Super Rugby’s top table by incorporating a coaching approach that has room for dash and daring‚ as well as good old fashioned devil in the detail.

Robertson‚ however‚ now has a fresh challenge on his hands to maintain the momentum.

The Crusaders will be a franchise in transition with Sam Whitelock‚ Kieran Read‚ Owen Franks‚ Jordan Taufua‚ Ryan Crotty and possibly Matt Todd all leaving.

Assistant coaches Ronan O’Gara and Brad Mooar are also on the move.

Robertson‚ however‚ is in a community that does not shy away from a rebuilding job.

“I’ve got a championship winning team here and I’ve got a great group of All Blacks‚” said Robertson.

“There are a lot of guys who are world class and my job is to get the best out of them and carry this on for as long as I can‚” said Robertson.

Whitelock believes in Robertson‚ the Crusaders have the ideal man who can oversee the rebuilding job.

“He’s smart. It’s all here and he is challenging people to get better and to grow. Everyone has done that whether they’ve been here for a couple of months or 15-plus games.

"His ability to grow the players as well as the coaching and managing staff too is great for the set-up. We can’t do what we do without him‚” said Whitelock.

As much as the Crusaders will face slightly uncertain times‚ the Jaguares although falling short at the final hurdle‚ will be emboldened by their efforts this season.

They made history by claiming South African conference honours finishing the latter part of the season strongly with just one defeat in the 12 games leading up to the final.

They achieved this despite facing the most demanding travel schedule in the competition.

They were shattered after the final‚ and lock Tomas Lavanini’s battered face told its own tale afterwards.

“I think like‚ you guys (the media)‚ everyone must imagine the guys should just be proud and be just happy to be here‚” said their coach Gonzalo Quesada.

“(However) the dressing room is really sad and terrible. The guys are in tears because they went through a hell of a season. They put in a lot of commitment there‚” said Quesada.

“I told them ‘sometimes we win‚ sometimes we lose’. The main goal we gave ourselves this season‚ we achieved it.

“I think maybe in a couple of hours their spirits will be higher‚ but it is good to know there is no mediocrity either. If we were just happy to be in the final - it is not in their mind.

“I think they are going to realise‚ little by little what they did‚ and hopefully they will be happy later.”

The coach said he tempered his team’s expectations in the build-up to the clash. They arguably went into the final with more momentum than the hosts.

“I tried to hide that as much as I could from the players. I hide it from myself‚ too. But I think it was something quite historical.

“No-one could imagine something like this a couple of years ago. Even at the beginning of the season when we lost a couple of key players‚ too.”

Liam Del Carme travelled to the Super Rugby final as part of Vodacom’s Red Final Tour.

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