That rivalry will resume when the pair meet for a third explosive clash in 2018, with this weekend’s semi-final bearing extra significance. It’s win or go home.
After fans were treated to two tense encounters during the regular season – and the ledger sitting even at 1-1 – the prospect of a knockout game between the two has stolen headlines and captured imaginations, billed by some as the real grand final.
The record seven-time champion Crusaders are on the hunt for a second consecutive title, while the Hurricanes – semi-finalists for four years straight – are hoping to send off departing head coach Chris Boyd with another title to go alongside their maiden 2016 trophy.
But before we get to this weekend’s all-important clash, let’s revisit some of the brutal matches that have made this rivalry one to savour.
The Crusaders hosted the Hurricanes in week four of the 1999 Super 12 season, for a clash that would essentially spark the rivalry between the two teams.
The Hurricanes were coming off a mediocre year and had stumbled out of the gates to start the season, while the Crusaders were fresh off their first Super Rugby title and rolling through the competition.
After opening the year with a pair of losses before getting back on track with a win over the eventual wooden spooners, the Hurricanes traveled to Jade Stadium and pushed the defending champions all the way to the limit.
Hurricanes reserve five-eighth Mal Arnold landed a sideline conversion in the dying stages to earn his side an 18-18 draw and start turning the tables against a franchise they were yet to defeat.
After conceding their first three matches against the Crusaders prior to the 1999 draw, the Hurricanes would win the next two meetings after.
The Fog Final
The infamous 2006 season finale is that of legend. We don’t know a whole lot about this game, and can barely verify its actual existence. All we know for sure is that the Crusaders emerged from a heavy cloud of fog with the Super 12 trophy. And midfielder Casey Laulala apparently scored a try somewhere in between.
Despite being prefaced by Sky Sport commentator Grant Nisbett and Crusaders legend Richie McCaw as a beautiful, clear night, the blanket of fog that rolled in just before kickoff essentially eliminated visibility for spectators as the match came close to being postponed.
The final scoreline was 19-12 in favour of the champion Crusaders, with the converted Laulala try proving the difference as Colin Cooper and the Hurricanes were left still searching for their first title.
Invading The Fortress And Bringing Home The Title
Over two years after their last victory at AMI Stadium, the Hurricanes are still the last team to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Hurricanes’ 35-10 victory in the final week of the 2016 regular season sparked their run to a maiden Super Rugby title.
Right in the thick of what was one of the tightest playoff races in recent memory – four competition points separated New Zealand’s top four teams – the Hurricanes’ picked up a record bonus-point win as a huge second half and 28 unanswered points awarded them home advantage for the playoffs.
The result put the rest of the competition on notice and the Hurricanes marched towards the 2016 crown, eventually defeating the Lions in the grand final.
Admittedly, the rivalry thus far – while often intense – has been a little one-sided on paper.
Of their 32 meetings, the Crusaders have won 20 times, and the teams have drawn twice.
But in 2018, things look as even as ever, with the sides each trading blows and holding court at home. The Hurricanes drew first blood, defeating the Crusaders 29-19 in week three before the latter returned the favour with a 24-13 triumph in week 15.
That makes their head-to-head points difference this season about as slim as it gets, with only one point separating the two teams.
The first clash of the year saw the Hurricanes race out to a 21-0 lead after 22 minutes thanks to a try from prop Chris Eves, a miracle offload from Jordie Barrett to TJ Perenara and a 60-metre Ben Lam scamper in front of a raucous home crowd. Matt Proctor put an exclamation point on a dominant team performance after he regathered a charged-down Mitchell Hunt clearance attempt and crashed over before the break.
Their second meeting of the season saw the Hurricanes travel to Christchurch – where the Crusaders have gone undefeated for the last two years – to try and snap their opponents’ 10-week winning streak.
All three Barretts scored in the first half, with Scott crossing for a try and Beauden and Jordie each kicking a penalty before the break.
Unfortunately for Hurricanes fans, the AMI Stadium fortress remained unscathed, with the Crusaders’ one-point halftime lead ballooning out to 18 as play neared the one-hour mark.
A spirited fightback was too little too late as the Hurricanes scored a 71st minute try but ultimately went down 24-13.
Saturday night’s semi-final will see another chapter written in one of Super Rugby’s fiercest rivalries, and settle the season series once and for all.
The hosting Crusaders have history on their side, as they are yet to lose a semi-final in Christchurch and have never lost to the Hurricanes in their four previous playoff meetings: the 2003 semi-final, 2005 semi-final, 2006 grand final and 2008 semi-final.
It remains to be seen whether history will repeat on Saturday night, but it can be assured there will be no love lost between two of Super Rugby’s most storied franchises.
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.