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Are they the greatest?
Are they the greatest?
(The Crusaders Dynasty)
Untitled Document In the long & proud history of New Zealand provincial rugby, are the 1998 - 2000 Canterbury Crusaders the greatest that has ever been? I think they are.

The NPC started in NZ in 1977. Since then Auckland has dominated that trophy, winning it 12 times. A super achievement.

Next on the list are both Canterbury & Wellington with 3 each.

I guess the trouble with the NPC is during its 23 year history, in any given year, there's only really 2-5 teams that could loosely be termed 'competitive'. Even though it was (and still is) the breeding ground of NZ's All Blacks to say that week-in and week-out any team could beat the other is stretching the truth a wee bit. That was especially true during the great Auckland era between 1985 - 1991 where they where so much better than anyone else the competition became boring. Hence the introduction of the finals series in 1992. Auckland's record in this comp is outstanding, but with the introduction of the Super 12 its importance has lessened in the eyes of most.

Next is the Ranfurly Shield. Two words that stir the heart of any Cantabrian. In fact two words that stir the heart of any true rugby supporter. Auckland's record here is equally impressive. Over the years they lead the pack with 149 shield defences, including a record 69 consecutive defenses. Next on the list is, surprise surprise, Canterbury with 92 shield defences. Again, even though defending the shield for any length of time is a superb effort, the fact that in any given year there are normally (at the most) only 3 games where you could say that it's a 50-50 call who wins, it's not exactly edge of the seat stuff anymore. Again the importance of this trophy has been lessened by the Super 12.

Probably the most impressive of Auckland's records was their wins in the first 2 years of the Super 12. A marvellous achievement!

However looking back at those first 2 years, the football has an "airy fairy" kinda image. Breathtaking attack but powderpuff defense. Every year since 1996 it has become harder and harder to score tries as teams have become more and more professional. The analysis of what teams do on attack (or defense) is now so complete that the advantage any team has is slim. In the year 2000 version of Super 12 this was very evident. Any team on their day could beat the other.

This is why the performance of the Crusaders has to be considered the greatest achievement in NZ domestic rugby. Playing in an international tournament against the Southern Hemisphere's best players and winning the tournament 3 years running has to be the ultimate. No question. The level of performance needed to maintain this sort of record is immense.

The guts, courage, pride in the jersey, shown by all members of the Crusader franchise is an inspiration not only to Cantabrians but to NZ'ers as a whole. They now set the benchmark for NZ rugby. Its now a sporting dynasty of Edmonton Oiler fame in the NHL, Manchester United in English football, and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA. Coincidently 2 of the 3 teams mentioned also have red 'n' black in their uniforms! : - )

And finally it seems the team is getting due credit by the nation's media. Its only taken 3 years.

This is a time when all Cantabrians are fiercely proud of the performance of the Red 'n' Blacks. It's a special time. They have done us proud. Its now up to everybody else to end the dynasty.



Let us know what you think!

Even if I had two eyes I would have to agree with you DH!

(of course if both my eyes were full of tears I would be a Chiefs supporter...)

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