Instead of hating and criticising, you could actually just sit back and admire the greatness of the Crusaders
Those contemptible Crusaders have done it again.
Five years Scott Robertson has coached them, for five Super Rugby titles on the trot. Such is the hatred of the team – both throughout New Zealand’s other franchise teams and the general fanbase – that Robertson actually made mention of it the other night.
“I know we’re disliked immensely,’’ Robertson remarked, following the team’s Super Rugby Aotearoa grand final win over the Chiefs.
Former Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg has previously talked about mates at other teams who “absolutely hate’’ the 12-time Super Rugby champions and even Chiefs halfback Brad Weber – who should know better – said similar this season as well.
Weber felt it was the fact franchises such as the Chiefs had “contrasting styles, contrasting environments’’ that made them dislike the Crusaders so much.
“To be fair, it’s probably the rest of the country versus Canterbury, isn’t it?,’’ Weber said.
Well, let’s unpack a bit of that then. Let’s look at a few of the obvious things the Crusaders do to make themselves so loathsome.
They win, for starters, and what an unimaginable crime that is. They don’t boast, they don’t showboat, they don’t disrespect their opponents – they just beat them, year after year after year.
They rarely rely on stars from elsewhere. Sure they attract the best age-group or emerging provincial players where required, but these blokes make their names in Christchurch.
The Crusaders make players better. Good players become very good but – more often than not – a huge part of the franchise’s success is built upon getting great service out of nobodies. The blokes that no-one wants and who, arguably, would amount to nothing elsewhere, but thrive in that environment.
They invariably make you beat yourself. No matter what your form or how good your roster, you will rarely execute your skills to their fullest in a final against the Crusaders.
And when frustration gets the better of you and your discipline flags and you make a bad decision, the Crusaders will punish you. It’s almost unfair, isn’t it?
The Crusaders treat everyone fairly equally. Yes, they have stars, but they rarely pander to them. Rules aren’t broken to accommodate an anointed few and standards aren’t compromised to excuse the elite.
Those nobodies that no-one else wanted, they stand up in finals because they’re made to feel as important and valued as anybody else.
Referees favour the good teams and the good players. Always have, always will. Success gets you the rub of the green and that’s that.
It’s become a rare franchise who haven’t employed coaches from the tree of Wayne Smith. Whether you hate the Crusaders or not, chances are you’ve been exposed to a variety of their methods.
If you then don’t turn that tutelage into titles, is that your fault? Or just another reason to hate the Crusaders?
It’s not just franchises who want a bit of that success. New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks seek to utilise it too, routinely hiring Crusaders’ staff or coaches. You’d be daft not to.
We’ve had the Rueben Thorne chant and now Robertson’s dancing and the horses and the swords and the whole Crusaders name thing and you feel like you could just go on and on.
Or instead of that, and instead of hating and instead of criticising, you could actually just sit back and admire the greatness.
Teams talk of championship windows and hard luck and injury woes and 50-50 calls and weather and the bounce of the ball and whatever else. Not the Crusaders. No, they turn up season after season seeking excellence and not settling for anything less until the final whistle’s blown.
They don’t lament or complain about the things they can’t control. They just adapt to the circumstances and do their best.
There have been better Crusaders teams, who waged more impressive Super Rugby campaigns. But rather than diminish the achievements of this 2021 team, it actually enhances them.
To win – yet again – when you’re not at your very best and people are starting to predict your demise and there are perhaps more talented teams out there, is a magnificent feat.
One that speaks volumes not just for Robertson and the players, but the entire organisation.
Far from hating this franchise, or even affording them grudging respect, we ought to all be celebrating them.
High-performance sport isn’t about participation, it’s about winning, and few organisations have proven better at that.
If you call yourself a sportsman or a sports fan and you don’t like the Crusaders, then you need to find yourself a different pastime.
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