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Former Wallaby encourages fans to ‘enjoy’ Crusaders’ winless run

By Finn Morton
Scott Barrett reacts after Crusaders' loss to the Waratahs (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Former Wallaby Cameron Shepherd has encouraged Super Rugby Pacific fans to “enjoy” the Crusaders’ winless start to the season with the defending champions ranked second-last on the ladder.

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For the first time since the inaugural Super Rugby season in 1996, the Crusaders have started a season with three defeats from as many starts.

The reigning competition champions started their season with a tough loss on the road away to New Zealand rivals the Chiefs before falling to the NSW Waratahs 37-24 in a stunning Super Round upset at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

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But their loss to the Fijian Drua in Round Three sees them anchored towards the bottom of the ladder with the Christchurch-based franchise equal on competition points with the Western Force.

While the Force currently sit in last place, the Crusaders are only one spot above them due to their slightly better points differential which still reads -27 after the opening three rounds.

“Poor performance (in Round One) and then you come out, you do a huge comeback against the Force and then win on the weekend against a Moana Pasifika team that was coming off a win,” Cameron Shepherd initially said of the Melbourne Rebels on Stan Sports’ Rugby Heaven.

“Great to see the Crusaders down the bottom. If the Western Force won on the weekend they would’ve been in 11th and the Crusaders would’ve been 12th.

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“But then you look at that logjam in the middle and I think Sera you’d agree, this weekend really is going to separate and we’re going to start seeing some real differences within the group.

“But at the moment, it sort of is anyone’s tournament.”

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With new coach Rob Penney at the helm, the Crusaders have had three different halfbacks start in the No. 9 jersey already this season and there has been some change at first-five as well.

The Crusaders no longer have the likes of Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock or Leicester Fainga’anuku to call upon as they sail through practically uncharted waters this season.

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The last time the Crusaders started 0-3, one of Rugby Heaven’s pundits this week, Sera Naiqama, was only one. Host Michael Atkinson was about eight years of age.

“We might not get this chance again so we’ve got to enjoy it as much as we can,” Shepherd added with a smile.

But as they look to turn their season around, the Crusaders have their backs up against the ropes as they prepare to run through a Super Rugby gauntlet over the next few weeks.

The Crusaders will host the Hurricanes in Christchurch in Round Four before then facing the Blues in Auckland and the Chiefs back at home.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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