Steve Tew started the process, and Hamish Riach seems to be continuing the fine procedures and philosophies. Like most organisations it all starts from the top, and its hard to argue that the Crusaders have got this part of their franchise 100% right. Flowing down all the support staff, the coaching staff lead by Rob Deans and everybody else associated with the franchise, seems to have all bought into the Crusader culture, and it shows. Deans has proved himself to be the best coach in the country and Mitchell is exactly right when he says he needs his assistant coach to be still coaching a current S12 side. Colin Cooper also must rate a mention here. The Crusader forwards where quite simply awesome. Is it any co-incidence that the Taranaki coach was the Crusader forward coach? Must be some correlation there.
For their first 3 titles the Crusader dominance was built on awesome defense. During last years NPC, Canterbury under Aussie Maclean revealed formidable attacking potential ripping most teams to shreds with speed and inventiveness. This has flowed through too the Crusaders. Obviously Merhtens in particular has a big part to play in this attacking style, but the reality is his prodigy Aaron Mauger is the main reason! Mauger offers the blinding acceleration of a Carlos Spencer, the ball playing skills of a Mehrts, kicking abilities of a Mehrts, and defensive qualities of a Walter Little. The COMPLETE package! How good is the guy going to be?
Stepping through the entire backline, Canty have stepped away from the "bash-them-up" type backline player. Mark Robinson has superb footwork, and sets up his outsides well. MacDonald is incisive, reliable and intelligent at fullback. Ralph has similar qualities at wing. Chuck in Vuninbaka's blinding speed, Marshall's combativeness (& crap passing), & a reserve bench that includes the other Mauger, Gibson, Maddock etc etc and you can see why the Crusaders are so potent.
And the forwards? UNBELIEVABLE! Totally awesome up front. The standout player of course in the forwards has to be Chris Jack! The 2.03m 112kg monster is quickly becoming a legend. Fantastic ball skills, pace, crunching defense combined with an in your face attitude makes this man the complete lock in world rugby. Will be regarded as NZ's best ever lock, no doubt.
The Crusader front row, no matter whose there, can dominate any team. Somerville is going from strength to strength, Hammett is Olivers obvious replacement, and Feek/Hewett can be interchanged at will. Maxwell continues to play like a nutter which is great.
Along with Jack, Richie McCaw is also going to b regarded as an AB great. a combination of Kronfeld and Michael Jones in this man! unbelievable skills.
His backrow partners are the impressive Reuben Thorne, captain fantastic now for both Canterbury and the All Blacks and Scotty Robertson. Thorne has learnt all of Toddy's mannerisms and improved on them. His hardworking play is just what NZ rugby needs. Scott Robertson has really made no.8 his own. Great defense and penetration from the back of the scrum.
These guys are the complete package!
The new stand at Jade is awesome. Enough said! Which leads too...
Another 120,000 celebration parade is a graphic example of the sort of passion and pride that is generated in Canterbury and the surrounding provinces in South & Mid Canty, West Coast, Nelson Bays and Marlborough. The MASSIVE "Canterbury...Canterbury..." chant near the end of the final on Saturday night sent a shiver down the spine.
The Brumbies deserved to be in the final, and showed great courage against the Crusader onslaught. But they where totally outclassed on the night by one of the truly "great" teams on NZ rugby!!!
Which can hopefully mean a successful AB season for Mitchell and the boys!
GO CANTERBURY, GO CRUSADERS, AND C'MON THE AB's!!!!!!!