Knowing the result changes things, obviously.

Work commitments meant I didn’t watch the Hurricanes’ home clash with the Crusaders live, but I had it taped and then avoided any outlet that might give the result away.

In the end a mate rang and let the cat out of the bag, which kind of changed the viewing experience. Although only to a point.

Hurricanes co-captain TJ Perenara suggested after the match that his team had been right in it at 25-25.

That sounds fair enough in theory. But even with full knowledge of what the eventual outcome would be, it was still impossible to watch events at Sky Stadium with any sense that the Crusaders might lose.

To be absolutely honest, they won that match at a canter and could’ve cleared out by far more than 39-25 if the mood had taken them, providing a sobering reminder of just how much better they are than everyone else.

It’s not just that the Crusaders are well-coached and well-disciplined. It’s not only their ability to execute their skills under pressure that sets them apart.

It’s that, purely and simply, they have way more good players than everyone else.

Take Scott Barrett, Quinten Strange, Tom Christie and Tom Sanders out of any other Super Rugby Aotearoa pack and see how you go. No Andrew Makalio or Harry Allan either? No worries.

The poor old Chiefs looked capable of being crowned Super Rugby champions when footy first kicked off for the year. But with no Atu Moli on deck and no Michael Allardice or Angus Ta’avao, they now look pretty ordinary indeed.

David Havili surely won’t spend the whole season on the bench for the Crusaders – having now recovered from stomach surgery – but what a luxury to have him as a second-half sub at Sky Stadium. And Mitchell Drummond and Ethan Blackadder and Oli Jager and Luke Romano and so on.

Leicester Fainga’anuku might be the main attacking threat at some franchises. At the Crusaders he’s doing well to simply be in the reserves.

Players will always gravitate towards a winning team, but the Crusaders’ depth is testament to their ability to identify good, coachable talent and to then sell a culture and a way of playing to that talent.

Among the more unusual invitations to ever come my way, was one last week to a Zoom meeting with referees.

There will be people, those far more steeped in the game than I, who would have jumped at the chance. Me? No, thanks.

It was a pleasure to watch the way the Crusaders infringed on Sunday. It eventually led to the sin-binning of centre Jack Goodhue, but was a commendable tactic all the same.

Being well-coached and well-disciplined doesn’t have to mean being fair or playing to the rules or even to the spirit that the rules were intended. Sometimes it actually means giving away smart penalties at smart times and, boy, didn’t the Crusaders do that at Sky Stadium.

We’re all heartened by the Blues. They’re still very much a work in progress, but they’re winning and not by brilliant means either.

Some teams can’t win ugly or can’t win when it’s not their best day. The Blues were one of those, but aren’t now.

They’re still not the finished article, so they will make errors and they might still cough the odd game up.

But better to be the Blues right now than the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Chiefs. You feel those three are searching a bit. They’d all like to play a certain way, but don’t quite have the ability or nous or cattle to make that happen.

The Crusaders’ method is not only proven, but plain to see. Sure it evolves and gets tweaked, but the main principles remain.

Crusaders teams don’t beat themselves. They don’t, as Perenara did on Sunday, lament chances that got away or passes that didn’t stick.

Such was the Crusaders’ command over the Hurricanes, you’d have thought they’d been playing for months. Other teams might work their way into a season or offer excuses for why things didn’t work, but not them.

No, when you’re built on the sort of foundations the Crusaders are, then playing well is just the inevitable outcome. 


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