In tonight’s match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders in Hamilton, Sam Whitelock will bring up 150 matches for the visitors. While milestones such as Whitelock’s are normally cause for celebration, a player reaching the 150-cap mark hasn’t always brought good fortune for the Crusaders.
The Crusaders, as the most successful team in the competition’s history, have never struggled to keep players on their books. Their excellent success rate on the park combined with their well-documented supportive culture has ensured that Crusaders players, on average, stick around in New Zealand for considerably longer than any other franchise’s players.
That means they’re understandably the side that boasts the most players to have clocked up the 50, 100 and 150-cap milestones. They’re also the only Super Rugby team that can boast a double centurion, in the form of former loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett.
Players who reach the coveted milestone are naturally celebrated; rugby is an intensely physical sport and there are always young players snapping at your heels. To play even a handful of Super Rugby matches, let alone 150, is a massive accomplishment.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, however, rarely does a player reaching the 150-cap mark coincide with the competition’s most successful team chalking up another win.
In fact, the Crusaders only have a 50% success rate in games where a player earns their 150th cap – well down on their usual 70% win rate.
Corey Flynn was the first Crusader to bring up the 150-cap mark. His milestone was earned in the Crusaders’ 2014 semi-final win over the Sharks, 38-6. When Andy Ellis played his 150th game in 2016, the Crusaders comfortably accounted for the Waratahs 29-10. Three years later, the Crusaders romped out to a 66-0 win over the Rebels for Crotty’s 150th. Crotty scored the final try of the night (and converted it too) to cap off the win.
The other three games have resulted in two losses (Wyatt Crockett’s 150th in 2015 against the Hurricanes and Owen Frank’s against the Waratahs last year) and a draw (Kieran Read’s 150th against the Sharks last season).
Thankfully, Sam Whitelock’s milestone matches have all worked out in the Crusaders’ favour, with the Crusaders besting the Highlanders in 2013 for Whitelock’s 50th and the Rebels in 2016 for his 100th. The match against the Rebels ended 85-26 – a smashing, by any definition of the word.
The home side will also be celebrating Aaron Cruden’s 100th game for the Chiefs tonight – just the 6th player to reach that feat. While Hika Elliot, Sam Cane and Stephen Donald’s 100th games all ended in victories, Tanerau Latimer and Brodie Retallick’s capping ceremonies had more sombre moods.
Notably, Elliot’s win came against the Crusaders in Fiji, 23-13, while Latimer’s loss was also against the Crusaders, 17-18 in Hamilton.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 1, 2020
The Crusaders won’t have any issues getting up for tonight’s match, having left the door ajar for another side to pip them to the Super Rugby Aotearoa title after losing to the Hurricanes last weekend.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are hurting, having lost all six of their Super Rugby Aotearoa matches to date. While getting the win for their former co-captain would be a nice bonus, they likely don’t need any extra motivation.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT from Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
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