Crusaders crowned Super Rugby champions 2017


tamaThe Crusaders claim their eighth Super Rugby championship with victory over the Lions in Johannesburg.

 Scott Robertson looked into the eyes of his jubilant Crusaders players after their 25-17 win over the Lions, and could see how relieved they were to finally be the kings of Super Rugby.

The victory in the final over the Lions, who were reduced to 14 men when flanker Kwagga Smith was red carded late in the first half, has elevated the South Island club once again to the penthouse of the Sanzaar competition and marked a fairytale finish to the season for first-year coach Robertson and captain Sam Whitelock.

“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.”

Tamanivalu scored the Crusaders first try early this morning before Jack Goodhue also crossed over the try line.

After getting out to an early 12‑0 lead, the Crusaders chances were boosted just before half‑time when Lions flanker Kwagga Smith was red carded for taking out David Havili in the air.

But the Lions kept pushing, scoring two tries in the final quarter.

In the end, Kieran Read’s 42nd‑minute try  coupled with a pair of Richie Mo’unga penalty goals  were enough for the Crusaders to get the result.

Former All Blacks back rower Robertson, who won four titles with the Crusaders as a player between 1998-2002, said he was desperate to give his men the chance to experience the same emotions.

This win in the heartland of South African rugby ensured the Crusaders chalked-up their eighth title win. Only three squad members were in the Crusaders side that last won the competition in 2008.

“One of our themes this year was ‘me, we’, which was the ability for me to give everything to the team and the we is for our families and the rest of the staff at Rugby Park,” he added.

“Just friends and family. And the we part we get to enjoy when we return back to Christchurch. The integration on and off the park this year has been world-class. I am just really proud as the Crusaders coach I got the chance to lead these guys to a title because they deserve it.”

The celebrations would go long into the night in Johannesburg though after Robertson, nicknamed Razor, started the party in trademark fashion with break dancing on the Ellis Park pitch. Break dancing after a title win was a tradition Robertson started as coach of the Canterbury NPC team.

Robertson, a loose forward, won four titles between 1998-2002 under former coaches Wayne Smith and Robbie Deans. Now has done the double – the first person to claim crowns as a player and coach.

“It is massive me,” he said. I played for eight years, I was the most capped Crusader when I left with 86 games. It is something I actually regretted, going to Perpignan. I wanted to be the first Crusader to get to 100.

“And now to come back as a coach, I have hit the 100-mark in being involved in the Crusaders and to win a fifth title … It has helped. The questions were in my head, and I have answered a couple of them for sure.”

Many doubted whether the rookie coach could guide the team to a title in their first year. That was used as fuel to motivate his players.

Winning in Jo’burg – the Crusaders have become the first foreign side to win a title on South African soil – surely means this is the club’s greatest of title wins. Playing at altitude could have made this Mission Impossible.

Crusaders 25 (Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Kieran Read tries; Richie Mo’unga 2 con, 2 pen) Lions 17 (Malcolm Marx, Corne Fourie tries; Elton Jantjies 2 con, pen). HT: 15-3.