'I know we're disliked immensely': Was the whole country rooting for an upset in the Super Rugby Aoteroa final?
You don’t make it to the top without acquiring a few enemies along the way – but Crusaders coach Scott Robertson suspects there were more than just a few folk around the country rooting for an upset result in last night’s Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
The Crusaders are far and away the most successful side in Super Rugby’s history, winning 10 Super Rugby titles throughout the competition’s 24-year existence.
They’ve now added two Super Rugby Aotearoa crowns to their ledger following last night’s 24-13 win, and given the relative youth of their team, there doesn’t appear to be any stopping the Crusaders juggernaut.
Much like the unstoppable Auckland and Blues sides of the 1990s, that’s produced some frustration for fans of their opposition, who are often left wondering when their teams will finally get a shot at glory.
As such, Robertson was under no illusions heading into the grand final over where most viewers’ allegiances would have laid. Bar those from the South Island, northwards of North Otago, the majority of New Zealand would have almost certainly thrown their support behind the underdog Chiefs, who turned around an 11-match losing streak to book a spot in the final in Christchurch.
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“I know we’re disliked immensely, but I’d like to think we’re respected for what we’ve done,” said Robertson after the match.
“You have to stay hungry for so long, and put your body through it for so long and turn up every day. We have to get better as a team to keep winning.”
Despite lining up for their fifth title on the trot, Robertson wasn’t counting his chickens before they hatched. The Chiefs, after all, recorded five wins in a row this season, only ceding that run when they fielded a makeshift side against the Blues last weekend.
They also bested the Crusaders last time the two met.
“I was nervous – I know how good they are,” Robertson said.
"If you need someone to create a hole in the opposition midfield, you give the ball to Leicester Fainga’anuku. If you’re looking for someone to glide through one, then David Havili is your man."#SuperRugbyAotearoa #CRUvCHI #AllBlacks
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“We had to be at our best – at times we were against the ropes and all the leadership stuff we do, making the right calls and staying present, showed tonight.
“There was a lot of emotion in the box…we were in all sorts for a bit – I think the players were a bit calmer.”
The Crusaders were down to 13 men at one stage after both Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece were shown yellow cards for dangerous tackles but the normally reliable Damian McKenzie couldn’t convert opportunities into points and the Crusaders eventually marched their way to their 12th title.
Now, the Crusaders’ attention turns to the Brumbies – who fell agonisingly short of winning Super Rugby AU but conceded a post-buzzer try to James O’Connor, handing the Reds a come from behind victory. The old rivals will square off in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The top two teams from the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition will play in a sudden-death match at the end of the season to decide the overall winner, and the Crusaders will be aiming to add a second trophy to their cabinet for 2021.
“I’m really proud to coach this team,” said Robertson, “but it’s only half the season done.”
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